By Sue Moore
It takes an enormous number of volunteers to stage the Rotary Club Showboat every year. They come from throughout the greater Vicksburg area, which proudly boasts that the local talent pool is enormous. Many chorus members have cycled through to sing, dance, and tell jokes. The show would not go on however, without the many behind the scenes people who devote long hours to the success each year.
In 61 years, the show’s continuity and quality has been kept alive by a dedicated handful of music directors, most of them band directors in the Vicksburg school district (Bill Root, Jim Shaw, Tim Hofmeister, Chris Garrett)or one-time members of the band (Gerald Smith, Jay Crouch, Todd Overbeek). The only exception would be Bethel Staffen who was the initial pianist and music director, and Lyle Bartlett who was a high school teacher with a music background.
Bethel Staffen – 1954/55
Bill Root – 1956/66
Lyle Bartlett – 1967/69
Gerald Smith – 1970
Jim Shaw – 1971/97 who took sabbaticals in 1980 when Tim Hofmeister directed and 1989 when Jay Crouch stepped on the podium.
Todd Overbeek – 1998/2004
Chris Garrett – 2005/today
The general chairperson of the show was a position long held by Tim Weeks (30 years), and for several years before him, Arle Schneider and Bill Weessies, then Bud Goldsmith, Matt Crawford, Don Lohman and Mike Tichvon since 2013.
Stage directors had a slightly different job, but just as important. Arle Schneider stepped into that role many times, then Jim McClelland, Mike Coppens, Steve Thomas, and for many years, Lloyd Appell. Ken Franklin has been directing for the last seven years.
Costumes have been the purview of Freddi Coppes, Jo Miller, and now Margaret Kerchief, along with many helping hands to sew the cast into their intricate outfits.
Soloists today and yesterday get treated like royalty by the audience but they all participate in the chorus work too, giving their vocal chords lots of work. Special recognition goes as far back as Henry Barrett, Bill Oswalt, Jack Hartman, Doug Springer, John Hill Jr., and for 31 years, Jack Fryling.
Building and designing the sets for many years fell on Bob Cohrs, Denny Boyle, to name a few.
The show has been blessed with two mainstays as pianists in 61 years, June Morley and Karla Stubblefield.