Board selected some of favorite plays from the past half century

Published in the March 21 – April 3, 2018 issue of Gilroy Life

Hilary Little performs a song from the show “Godspell” at the March 12 South Valley Civic Theatre board meeting where the group announced its 2018-2019 season. Along with “Godspell,” the other shows will include “Aladdin, Jr.,” “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “1776,” and “Gypsy.”
Photo by Marty Cheek

The South Valley Civic Theatre turns 50 next year, and it plans a big celebration of reviving its most popular past shows for its upcoming season which starts in fall. The line-up of shows for the 2018-2019 season were announced at the performing arts group’s annual meeting March 12 held at downtown Morgan Hill’s Community Playhouse.

“This organization has thrived for 50 years, through ups and downs and challenges, but it’s an amazing thing to pay your bills for 50 years,” said out-going SVCT board president Peter Mandel.  “Community theaters come and go. But, this group has continued for 50 years. It’s an amazing accomplishment.”

It wasn’t always easy to keep going with financial and other challenges, he told the SVCT members.

“There were times when producers had to front the money to put up the show, like an actual Broadway thing,” he said. “If you’ve ever seen the (musical) show ‘The Producers,’ there weren’t even any little old ladies to get the money from. There was a time when the group ran out of cash and had to muddle through day to day.”

SVCT started out as Gilroy Community Theatre in 1969 when Gilroy residents Al and Frances “Pinky” Bloom came up with the idea of a nonprofessional theater group made up of small group of dedicated volunteers. GCT’s first show was “Come Blow Your Horn” performed in September 1969. The “Theater Angels Art League,” a precursor to today’s “Gilroy Arts Alliance,” served as the fundraising organization for GCT. They typically provided an opening night reception for each production. Initial productions were typically mounted at Gavilan College, usually three a year. In 1985, the GCT board voted to expand performance locations to include Hollister and Morgan Hill. To reflect the broadened coverage, they changed their name to South Valley Civic Theatre. Performances have been held in various locations including Gilroy High School and Live Oak High school as well as Rosso’s Furniture Store and San Martin’s The Pumpkin Patch. The show found a permanent stage home in the Morgan Hill Community Playhouse in 2003.

The reputation of the SVCT has grown with the rising quality of its productions and its focus on encouraging young people in acting and other theatrical activities, Mandel said.

“We have people auditioning with us from all over the Bay Area now,” he said. “That never used to happen. And we have therefore done amazing productions. Every one is a jewel. Think of how far we’ve progressed over the years to get to where we are.”

At the board meeting, hobbling across the Playhouse on crutches because he hurt his leg working on the “Thoroughly Modern Millie” set, Bruce Pember, incoming SVCT board president, served as the master of ceremonies to announce the new shows of the 2018-2019 season.

“Our next season is a very special season. We are revisiting shows that this theater group has put on and that the members voted on one way or another,” he said. “Basically, we plan to put out a retrospective of the popular shows this theater has put on over the years.”

Opening Sept. 8, the children’s musical will be “Aladdin, Jr.” which was originally performed in 2005. Opening Nov. 16, the holiday show is “It’s a Wonderful Life,” the uplifting story about a suicidal man finding redemption with the help of his guardian angel. Opening Feb. 8, the teen show is “Godspell,” a musical about biblical parables which originally was produced in 1998 and performed on the Gilroy High School theater. The story of America’s founding fathers giving birth to a new nation is told in “1776,” opening March 19. It originally performed in 2006. The adult musical, opening June 14, is “Gypsy,” the music-filled tale about Gypsy Rose and her challenging relationship with her two theatrical daughters. It was originally produced in 2002 at The Pumpkin Patch.