The final goodbye

Published 5:00 pm Saturday, August 13, 2011

Anna Sturtz and the cast of “Forbidden Broadway” rehearse the opening number Tuesday at Riverland’s Frank W. Bridges Theatre. - Jason Schoonover/jason.schoonover

Riverland’s annual alumni show will give retiring director Jerry Girton one final curtain call

For the first time since before kindergarten, Jerry Girton doesn’t have to worry about the sometimes dreaded, sometimes adored first day of school.

Girton retired from the Riverland Theatre Department in May after a 22-year run as director. Now, directing his final play on the Frank W. Bridges Theatre stage, Girton says he is “excited and scared” for the future, much like Little Red Riding Hood in the musical “Into the Woods.”

Girton is directing the alumni show, “Forbidden Broadway,” that debuts Tuesday. The show is a satirical parody that exchanges the original lyrics from several hit Broadway show tunes for humorous lyrics poking fun at Broadway hits, directors and composers.

Eric Sippel, right, and Sam Payne, left, lift Leslie Weber during a rehearsal for “Forbidden Broadway” Tuesday. - Jason Schoonover/

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“It makes fun of the things (in Broadway plays) people have made fun of for years,” Girton said. “It’s very funny.”

The show doesn’t leave many Broadway hits untouched, even tweaking the “Phantom of the Opera” hit “Music of the Night” to “Mucus of the Night.”

Girton said he chose this show as his last because he wanted everyone to get their chance to shine, instead of only having two or three leading characters.

“We like to feature a lot of people in the alumni show,” he said. “Everybody gets a little shot and gets their moment.”

David Albino, who has been involved in six alumni shows, said the show has so many funny moments it’s hard to keep a straight face on stage.

“When we’re singing songs it’s hard to stay in character,” he said. “If you understand the shows they’re making fun of, it’s totally hilarious.”

Although Albino has worked with Girton for several years, he said Girton’s last show hasn’t felt any different than previous shows directed by Girton.

“We know in our hearts he’ll still be around. Either that or we’re in denial,” Albino joked.

Melissa Johnson and Brad Weber, both actors in “Forbidden Broadway,” said Girton has been like a dad to his students and actors.

As Girton’s job as director is handed over to the new director, Lindsey Duoos Williams, Johnson and Weber plan to continue their involvement with the Riverland Theatre Department. However, Weber, who is also the theatre’s technical director, said there is a sense of apprehension with Girton’s departure.

“It’s a bittersweet moment,” Weber said. “We all want him to have a happy retirement, but there’s some apprehension that my second home has a new boss.”

“I’m not at all concerned that the tradition will carry on (with the new director),” he added.

Johnson said the reality of “Forbidden Broadway” being Girton’s last show hasn’t hit her yet, but after knowing the veteran director as “Papa Girton” for more than five years she knows closing night will be sad.

“The last song we sing is about enjoying the laughs,” Johnson said. “I’m sure it will hit me when we sing that. It’s a big family every year we come back.”

As for Girton, he said he’s still unsure what the future holds, but he may venture into freelance directing eventually. Until the alumni show’s closing night Aug. 19, though, Girton is focusing on putting on a quality show.

“It’s fun to have everybody back and working on it,” he said.

“Forbidden Broadway”

• Reception under the stars and preview, Tuesday, 7 p.m. Hors d’oeuvres and wine will be served. Tickets are $50.

• Regular showings: Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15.

For more information contact the Riverland box office at 433-0595.