“Make ’em laugh, make ’em laugh, make ’em laugh!” For 34 years that’s exactly what Santa Clara Showtime has done. It’s an evening of the corniest of the corniest in vaudeville entertainment, with appealing variety acts and an original melodrama set in the Santa Clara’s parallel universe, Doomstown.
This year’s show – “Runaway Bride…And Grooms? – or – 4 Weddings And A Funeral Too” – begins with a group of lonely Doomstown ladies, whose sweeties have all gone off to the gold fields “waaaaaaay out there in Alviso.” (Since audience participation is a must, practice saying it so you’ll know your lines.) The girls decide to advertise for some mail order grooms – a twist on a time-honored Showtime theme, mail order brides.
Resident robber baron, loan shark and libertine J.P. Blackheart (John Peterson) gets wind of this and devises a scheme for turning their misfortune into his good fortune, in more ways than one. He trolls city jails and barroom floors for desperados desperate enough to play along with his scheme – a “dating and mating” raffle styled after the Dating Game.
The biggest surprise of the game is the “secret” mail order groom, none other than Blackheart himself; who has rigged the game to trap Penny Pureheart (Laura Velasco) into matrimony – a quest in which he’s been unsuccessful so far, despite bringing foreclosure and eviction to bear.
Just when it seems Penny is doomed to loose her virtue along with her real estate, Sheriff Sam (Rick Mauck) arrives and Blackheart and his cronies are dragged off to jail, charged with operating a toxic, leaking land fill and mail tampering.
At this moment Tom Terrific (Aidan Kline) returns from the gold fields (“waaaaaaay over there….”), pockets stuffed with Ben Franklins to buy back the Pureheart real estate, and – of course – asks Penny to marry him. Cheri Coke (Char Blake) gets Showtime’s signature line, “Sheriff you’re wonderful.”
The second half of the show features variety acts – olios – by local performers. And as always, there’s a raffle, silent auction and plenty of refreshments (including wine and beer courtesy of Santa Clara Kiwanis), all managed by the Santa Clara Women’s League, Showtime’s sponsor.
“Runaway Bride…And Grooms?” plays March 4, 5 and 6 at the Santa Clara Community Recreation Center, 969 Kiely Boulevard. Curtain time March 4 and 5 is 7 p.m., and March 6 at 2 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 $7.00. You can get tickets at the door or in advance at the CRC and the Santa Clara Senior Center, 1303 Fremont St.
Over the years, Showtimehas raised over $350,000 for the Santa Clara’s senior health and wellness programs. The late community activist Cleo Stuckrath started Showtime after Proposition 13 decimated funding for Senior Center services. In the early years, Stuckrath was the show’s producer, director, stage manager, costume designer and prop manager, as well as the author of the first 25 melodramas – all of which she composed on an IBM Selectric typewriter.
Showtime’s producer and playwright is Rick Mauck, Robin Burdick directs, and critical support is provided by olio coordinator Rosemary Huza. Versatile pianist Kathy Smith, accompanist for Santa Clara’s Roberta Jones Junior Theater, provides the production’s old-fashioned melodramatic musical accompaniment.
You can be part of the Showtime fun next year – acting experience isn’t necessary. Email Rick Mauck at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call the Santa Clara Senior Center at (408) 615-3170 for more information.