A Vicksburg tradition returns: ‘Gold in the Hills’ takes the stage for its 88th year

Published 7:00 pm Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Nell, John Dalton, Murgatroyd and all of the can-can dancers are ready to take the stage again.

The Vicksburg Theatre Guild’s annual run of “Gold in the Hills” will begin March 8 at Parkside Playhouse, taking its Guinness world record run to 88 years.

The VTG’s predecessor, the Vicksburg Little Theatre, first performed “Gold in the Hills” on March 28, 1936. In the decades since it has become the group’s signature show and a spring staple of Vicksburg’s entertainment scene.

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“When you Google ‘Gold in the Hills’ you’ll see Vicksburg. It means a lot to all of us to see something pop up and see the Vicksburg Theatre Guild with it,” said Sarah Goss, who along with Ashleigh Holliday will direct the production for the eighth year in a row. “When you find those things it makes you very proud to continue a tradition. It takes a lot of work and dedication to keep this going.”

Nearly 60 cast members, ranging in age from young children to elderly adults, will take turns performing various roles throughout the show’s three-weekend run. Many of the adults have grown up with the show, and their children now play the roles they once did.

The family ties throughout the cast add another layer to this Vicksburg tradition, Goss said. It creates a bond that is passed down from generation to generation like a treasured heirloom.

“It’s the family traditions, and it’s not always the family you’re born into. We’ve been doing it so long that it’s like a big extended family,” said Goss, who has been part of the production since 2012. “We’ve got husbands and wives in it together, parents and children. To me, that’s the most special thing about ‘Gold.’”

The plot of “Gold in the Hills” follows the virtuous Nell Stanley as she leaves her family’s farm in the 1890s and goes to New York City while a murder mystery unfolds. Her love, John Dalton, is framed for murder by the villainous Murgatroyd. Murgatroyd is trying to use the dastardly scheme to steal the family’s home.

The 2024 run of “Gold in the Hills” will feature eight performances at Parkside Playhouse on Friday, Saturday and Sunday from March 8-23. There is no show on March 24 because of Palm Sunday.

Tickets are $12 for adults and $6 for children 12 and under. The Friday and Saturday shows are at 7:30 p.m. and the Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the door or in advance. For more information, call 636-0471 or email vicksburg.theatre@gmail.com.

“The Sunday matinee has turned into one of our best-attended shows,” Goss said. “You go to church, go to lunch, and go to the show.”

No matter which performance fans attend, they’re sure to see a different take each time — and that’s part of the charm, Goss said.

Because of the large cast, actors will often rotate roles from show to show. It provides a slightly different performance each time as each actor puts their unique spin on things.

Throw in a bit of audience participation — audience members are encouraged to boo the villain and cheer for the heroes — and it’s easy to see why “Gold in the Hills” has endured as one of Vicksburg’s favorite institutions for nearly nine decades.

“Every night is different. Everybody has a different spin on the characters so it’s a different show every night,” Goss said. “It’s just really special.”

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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