It’s that time again. The time when the villains of Doomstown start concocting their diabolical schemes, Sheriff Sam polishes up his badge, young lovers spruce up to pitch some woo, and some poor ingénue seems headed for an ugly finale.
I mean of course Santa Clara Showtime, which has the distinction now of running six years longer than “Phantom of the Opera.” And this year’s show, “Wills, Thrills and Spills,” celebrates that achievement by tying not just one, but half a dozen, ingénues to the railroad tracks.
The alt-Santa Clara locale of Doomstown is a place where the news is current but clothing styles never seem to change. It’s a place where the villainy never stops, but unlike real world villainy, the bad guys always, ALWAYS get what they deserve in the end–sometimes literally.
“Wills, Thrills and Spills,” tells the story of tycoon Howard Huge’s missing will and the villainous Belford Blackheart, played with customary panache by John Peterson, who will do anything to get his hands on Huge’s huge golden stash–including forgery.
Along the way, Blackheart is also contriving to separate the young virginal Hanna Montana (Laura Velasco) from her faithful admirer Christopher Goodie (Andrew Hyatt) and force her into his own repellent arms.
But ever-alert Sheriff Sam (Rick Mauck) is one step ahead of Blackheart, and in the end, of course, foils Blackheart’s plans. The lovers unite and the criminal mastermind is safely confined in jail–at least until Showtime takes to the boards next year.
Showtime’s melodramas are always non-stop exercises in loopy humor, where corny jokes and bad puns buzz around like mayflies, and audience participation is half the show. Versatile pianist Kathy Smith, accompanist for Santa Clara’s Robert Jones Junior Theater, provides the production’s old-timey musical accompaniment.
“Wills, Thrills and Spills,” plays March 3, 4 and 5 at the Community Recreation Center on Kiely Blvd. Curtain time March 3 and 4 is 7:00 p.m., and March 5 at 2:00 p.m. Doors open 90 minutes before show for refreshments and raffle tickets and pre-show entertainment begins 30 minutes before the curtain. Admission is $7 on Friday, $10 on Saturday and Sunday, and children 12 and under are $5. You can get tickets in advance at the Recreation Center or the Santa Clara Senior Center at 1303 Fremont St.
As always, there’s a variety show following the melodrama, a raffle and silent auction, and plenty of refreshments (including wine and beer courtesy of Santa Clara Kiwanis) all organized by the Santa Clara Women’s League.
Three Decades of Good Laughs and Good Work
Over the last 34 years, Showtimehas raised almost $40,000 for the Santa Clara Senior Center’s health and wellness programs. Organized and sponsored by the Santa Clara Women’s League, the annual show was started by the late community journalist and activist Cleo Stuckrath when Proposition 13 decimated funding for Senior Center services.
She was so well-known in Santa Clara for her many contributions and her newspaper column, Cleo’s Corner, that she was known simply as “Cleo.” Over the years, her column appeared in the Santa Clara Journal, Santa Clara American and the Santa Clara WEEKLY. And she wasn’t at all shy about using it to promote (some said ‘coerce public officials to participate in’) Showtime.
Her columns are in the Santa Clara City Library’s Heritage Pavilion. You can look her up in the card catalog.
Until 2007, Cleo was the show’s producer, director, stage manager, costume designer, prop manager and author of the first 25 melodramas – all of which she typed on an IBM Selectric typewriter.
After Cleo’s health started to fail in 2007, Rick Mauck, a Showtime veteran since the 1990s, and Robin Burdick, who was with the show from the very beginning, became co-producers and directors. Mauck, a retired Santa Clara Streets Superintendent, has written the scripts since 2007, showing a font of imagination that may even surpass Cleo’s.
In the interest of full disclosure, “Wills, Thrills and Spills,” will be my 10th Showtime performance. In 2005 I interviewed Cleo after she won a state award for community service and by the end of the interview she had talked me into signing up for Showtime.
I will always feel privileged to have known Cleo, and Showtime has never failed to be an hilarious adventure and a reminder that we all have more talent than we know. Cleo used to say that her greatest talent was seeing talent in others. And every year we see just great her talent and imagination was.
You can be part of the Showtime fun next year. Acting experience isn’t necessary–just a sense of humor. Email Rick Mauck at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call the Santa Clara Senior Center at (408) 615-3170 for more information.