Rock Valley College’s Starlight Theatre Celebrates 50th Anniversary

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The musical, “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” is set to open Rock Valley College’s Starlight Theatre’s 50th anniversary.

Theater director Mike Webb has been directing Starlight productions for 32 of his 40 years working for the college.

The theater has been a staple of Rockford’s art scene since it’s first production of “Finian’s Rainbow” in 1967. The facility has allowed non-professionals from the Rockford area to try their hand at acting.

“Legitimately, I call it the ‘magic of Starlight’, because it’s very magical around here,” Webb says.

For five decades, many familiar faces have crossed the Starlight stage. Local musician, Jodi Beach, has done so many shows since she was 15 years old, that she’s lost count.

“It’s always been a part of my life, and so many thousands of people,” Beach says. “It’s hard for me to comprehend.”

For every person who might be considered a veteran of Starlight, there are always fresh faces taking on the challenge of performing for the first time, like “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” actress, Kristina Puzin.

“I hope that people will enjoy it, because everybody [is trying] their best on it,” she says. “It took a lot of hands to do the set and all the dancing. We did a lot of work.”

While the action on stage is what audience notice first, there is a whole crew of people who work behind the scenes. Thomas Luna, as stage manager, is in charge of them this summer.

“I was introduced to Starlight around 2010, when my friend was in ‘The Producers’,” Luna says. “That was the first time I got to experience a show out here. And, right away, my immediate thought process was, ‘I want to be in theater, any way possible’.”

Mychall Cornejo is the creative force behind the dances, as the choreographer. Cornejo gives much of the credit for Starlight’s success over the years to the creative direction of Webb.

“He wants you to be the best you can be, so that when you take what he’s given you, you can take and apply it to the real world, or whatever future performances you get to do,” Cornejo says. “I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.”

This summer’s 50th anniversary season includes performances of “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”, which opens this Wednesday; “Jesus Christ Superstar”, “The Phantom of the Opera”, and “Children of Eden” will follow. Each show has two separate runs throughout the summer, in both June and July.

For tickets, call the Starlight Theatre box office at (815) 921-2160.

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