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Girton to exit through 'New Window'

Go back to the height of the roaring '20s in New York. You won't need a time machine to do this, just head over to the theater at Riverland Community College for a performance of "Mame," a musical comedy.

Director Jerry Girton and the 35-member cast has been putting finishing touches on the play throughout rehearsals this week to prepare for the show, which opens tonight. Actors have spent about five weeks working on the musical, written during the golden age of music.

The main character, "Mame," is a woman who was living large during the 1920s, until her world was turned upside down when her orphaned 10-year-old nephew Patrick comes to live with her. The young boy changes her life for the better.

Girton looks for two musicals each year, all the while trying to strike a balance with male- and female-dominated shows. His first choice for spring, "Fiddler on the Roof," fell through because of rights issues, so he decided on "Mame," a classic, American musical.

"It just seemed to be a good fit," Girton said.


This spring show is a special one because it marks Girton's last Riverland production before his retirement. He's been the school's theater director for 22 years.

Girton said he likes "Mame," especially a song called "Open a New Window." He thought it would be pertinent to his situation.

The show has about a dozen songs, and it runs a little more than two hours. It's also scored for a full orchestra. Some highlighted songs are "It's Today," "If He Walked into my Life," "Bosom Buddies" and "We Need a Little Christmas!"

Girton said his favorite part of "Mame" is the relationship that plays out between the aunt and her nephew.

"It's a fun story," Girton said.

Although this is the end of his Riverland directing gig, Girton remains focused on the task at hand. His looming retirement has not affected his work. The only thing he did differently was ask a few community members to be in his shows.

"I don't think it'll hit me until it's over," Girton said.

Without hesitation, he said he will miss the students the most when he retires, their sense of humor and "sense of energy and life."


"Mame" runs through May 7.

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