In 1969 a group of local musicians and actors approached the City of Pontiac Department of Parks and Recreation to help to sponsor a local production of a Broadway musical in the city. The city and the group worked in tandem and Pontiac Parks and Recreation Department presented the classic Guys and Dolls as its first production. At the time of publication of this history, the records of Guys and Dolls have not been located, so those initial performers, musicians, technical personnel, and directors remain unknown, but it is due to their efforts that there is a Pontiac Theatre IV today.
Guys and Dolls, having been a success, the Parks and Recreation Department went on to produce The Music Man in August 1970. This production was presented at Pontiac Northern High School and, assuming Guys and Dolls was also on stage at a Pontiac School, continued a relationship with The School District of the City of Pontiac that continues to this day.
Success breeds success and the Parks and Recreation Department continued to fund and produce summer theatre in Pontiac in 1971 and 1972. The summer of 1972 was particularly memorable as the group produced three full productions: Man of LaMancha; Bye, Bye Birdie; and Barefoot in the Park in about a six week time frame. Success also breeds change and big changes were in store for theatre in Pontiac.
Following the 1972 season, a group of performers decided it was time to cut their strings with Parks and Recreation and strike out on their own. As the core group planned for the 1973 summer season and its first independent production, the subject of what to name the new company came up. Here is where our past gets a little murky.
There are two different versions of how Pontiac Theatre IV received its name, particularly the “IV” at the end. One version, and the one repeated the most, is that the name was a reference to the first four seasons spent as part of the Department of Parks and Recreation. The second account was that the initial board of directors was planning on performing four shows per year, and having seen the name of another Midwest community theatre using the Roman Numerals “III” as part of their name, adopted the “IV” as part of the official name of the group. Whatever the actual reason, and the editors believe it was a combination of both versions, Pontiac Theatre IV was born with its first independent productionThe Sound of Music in June 1973.
Once the group started, it was full steam ahead. The 1970’s saw 26 productions, including classics of musical theatre Hello Dolly, Mame, Showboat, Cabaret, Oliver and My Fair Lady. The group’s first ten years also witnessed its first anniversary review. As Theatre IV (as it was being called more and more) came to its tenth anniversary, 10 By IV was conceived. This show was a review of various numbers from productions presented during those first ten years. This was a massive undertaking as each of the numbers was fully staged, including choreography and costumes.
Also during the 1970’s, a small group of singers within Theatre IV got together, and with the boards approval, started a traveling company to perform musical reviews in the community. Second Company produced its first review, Showstoppers, at another venue the group has a continuing relationship with: All Saints Episcopal Church in downtown Pontiac.