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It's a 'Miracle,' but who played Mr. Gimbel in Riverbank production?

RIVERBANK -- City, education, entertainment and law enforcement leaders are getting in the spirit at Del Rio Theater.

Ten men who represent Riverbank and Escalon on various levels will appear in Rio Art's production of "Miracle on 34th Street." The men will share the role of Mr. Gimbel, who owns a department store that rivals the one where a well-loved Santa works. A different man will play Gimbel each night of the play, which runs today through Sunday and Dec. 21-23.

The lineup:

Riverbank Police Chief Tim Beck -- Tonight

Riverbank City Manager Rich Holmer -- Saturday matinee

Riverbank Unified School District Superintendent Joe Galindo -- Saturday evening

Riverbank Mayor Chris Crifasi -- Sunday matinee

Bob Eden of Otter Bob Productions -- Dec. 20 private viewing

Riverbank Chamber of Commerce Director Bob Cairns -- Dec. 21 evening

Escalon City Manager Greg Greeson -- Dec. 22 matinee

Riverbank High School Principal Ken Geisick -- Dec. 22 evening

Stanislaus County Supervisor Bill O'Brien -- Dec. 23 matinee

Ramiro Madueño, husband of Riverbank Vice Mayor Virginia Madueño, performed Thursday in a private preview.

More experienced actors say they aren't worried about sharing the stage with novices.

"If they get lost, we'll help cover for them. It's all for fun anyway," said actor Dan Bailey, who plays Kris Kringle.

The rotating Gimbels idea was the brainchild of first-time director Shawn Strohman, who said he hadn't seen the play produced in the area for years and he wanted to be the one to do it.

"Miracle on 34th Street" will be the last play in the theater before renovations, Holmer said. City officials are considering plans for the building. The idea is to renovate everything except the restaurant. Shops that face Atchison and Third streets that haven't been filled in years will be renovated, along with the former movie room, which will be turned into a broader entertainment venue with a stage and screen.

"This building will be a magnet," Rio Arts Artistic Director Joey Huestis said of artists' interest in the building.

Holmer said the work should be completed in two years.

Bee staff writer Eve Hightower can be reached at 578-2382 or ehightower@modbee.com.

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