14th Alumni show will be last for Girton
AUSTIN — It's the 14th annual Alumni Show with the Riverland Community College theater and music departments, but this year's show will be a little different.
This will be the last production that theater director Jerry Girton will oversee. He is retiring after 22 years.
"Last year’s show raised $40,000," said Girton about the show in the college's Frank W. Bridges Theatre.
"Forbidden Broadway" by Gerard Alessandrini is described as a meeting of Broadway’s greatest musical legends and Broadway’s funniest satirist. It features parodies from "Annie," "Fiddler on the Roof," "Mamma Mia," "Spamalot," "Les Miserables," "Wicked" and many more performed by a cast of 30.
On Monday, Girton said he is not sure what he will do "after taking a break. Maybe a freelance director or a teacher.
"It will be good just to take some time and figure out what I want to do," he said.
His biggest challenge at Riverland has been dealing with the turnover of students in a two-year school, never knowing what students you are going to have.
His biggest reward? "Working with all those students."
Girton said that "Forbidden Broadway" is a good choice for the alumni show because its variety draws students back from Mankato, Minneapolis, Rochester and elsewhere in Minnesota.
"This is one of those productions that give everyone a shot," he said. "There will be lots of solos. We thought that would be a good thing to do."
There have been changes in theater over the past 22 years, "but the audience always wants quality in a traditional or a contemporary show," he noted.
It is clear that Girton will be missed on the Austin theater scene. One fan — among many — is Scott Anderson, operations manager for the Paramount Theatre.
"I’ve known him since we were both in the theater program at Riverland," he recalled. "And we went on together to the theater arts program at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall. Jerry has done the best job ever at Riverland," Anderson said. "He has made the department grow. He is a great asset to the college."
Anderson said Girton would probably be best remembered in Austin for the Summerset program, which started in 1967. Students have an opportunity to participate in Summerset Theatre. Summerset mounts three productions in June and July. In August, they can join alumni in the Annual Alumni Show.