It was a dark day in Doomstown on March 5, 2020 when the COVID pandemic brought down the curtain abruptly on Showtime, Santa Clara’s four-decade-old annual fundraiser for senior health services. It seemed like this time, the bad guys had really won.
The Santa Clara Women’s League — Showtime’s sponsor and manager — rode to the rescue, and Showtime 2023 is preparing to open on March 4, under co-chairs Emily Adorable and Nancy Velasco.
An inexpensive evening of entertainment — it has run six years longer than Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera — Showtime offers plenty of laughs in a homegrown melodrama featuring the Really, Really Not Ready For Prime Time Players. The program also includes a variety show of audience-pleasing acts, a silent auction and a raffle.
Showtime’s 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 the real world, the bad guys get what they deserve in the end — always.
This year’s show, “Home Run in Doomstown — or — Perils of the Rockford Peaches,” tells the story of a women’s baseball team, a pair of crooks looking to rig the World Series, a young man dreaming of a career in major league baseball and a diabolical temptress who offers the aspiring baseball player a road to realizing his dreams — in return for his soul, of course — but not exactly in the way he imagined.
“Home Run in Doomstown” was written in 2020 by Rick Mauck. Mauck— Showtime’s playwright since 2008 and Sheriff Sam, Doomstown’s indefatigable crusader against crime and injustice — has taken a well-deserved retirement this year. He leaves the melodrama in the capable hands of Showtime veteran Robin Burdick, who has been in Showtime since its start in the early 1980s.
“It’s great to be back,” said Burdick. “It’s a tribute to the old adage, ‘the show must go on,’ as well as to our cast members and the Santa Clara Women’s League. So many things didn’t survive the pandemic shutdown, but it looks like Showtime did. I think [Showtime founder] Cleo [Stuckrath] would be immensely proud.”
There have been challenges in getting the show back on the road, though. The City’s budget deficit means that positions remain unfilled in Parks & Recreation, limiting the support the City is able to give to the production.
Fortunately, Santa Clara Boy Scouts rode to the rescue, volunteering to move sets. Velasco says Recreation Manager Kim Castro and recreation staff also “went out of their way to make it happen.”
Four Decades of Fun
Showtime is the brainchild of legendary Santa Clara community activist and journalist Cleo Stuckrath. Cleo —like Cher, she only needed one name — organized Showtime to make up for budget cuts that gutted senior center health services.
For more than two decades, Cleo was Showtime’s playwright, producer, promoter, production manager, casting director, stage director, set designer, wardrobe mistress, choreographer, prop master and publicist. In 2008 she turned the reins over to her longtime assistants Burdick and Mauck, who kept the home-brewed melodrama tradition alive.
Popular knowledge dates the first Santa Clara Showtime to 1982, and it must have been a roaring success because, by 1983, Showtime was in full gear and everyone – politicians, police chiefs, magicians, tap dancing grandmothers, and Elvis covers, you name it – was getting into the act.
“Showtime rehearsals are off and running,” Cleo wrote in the Jan. 21, 1983 edition of the Santa Clara American.
“Everyone is having the time of their lives,” read the American. “It is hard to say if the cast of Penelope of Pruneyard Patch is having the most fun or the enthusiastic participants of the Olio.*”
Heading that year’s cast as Penelope’s villain was Dr. Alan “Doc” Everett, who played Hector Hatefulheart; “a good dentist who just turned actor this year,” Cleo wrote. Craig Sala played the romantic lead opposite Gretchen Stuckrath as the much put-upon heroine.
“Craig Sala was the handsomest hero ever with the mostest of everything including muscles,” wrote Cleo in the Feb. 4, 1983 American. “His Tarzan yell brought down the house.”
Sala was subsequently known as Santa Clara’s Singing Policeman, and for many years his Elvis cover closed every Showtime performance.
Showtime 2023 is at the Santa Clara Community Recreation Center (969 Kiely Boulevard) on March 4 at 7:00 p.m. and March 5 at 2:00 p.m. Doors open for the pre-show entertainment 90 minutes before curtain time. Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for children and a family package (2 adults, 2 children) costs $25.
Tickets are available at online at santaclarawomensleague.org, the Santa Clara Senior Center (1303 Fremont Street), the Community Recreation Center and at the door.
For more information, go to www.santaclarawomensleague.org or call (408) 247-5927.
*In the interest of full disclosure, reporter Carolyn Schuk has been in Showtime since 2006.