Irv Kimber, a co-founder of the Civic Light Opera of South Bay Cities and the producing artistic director of the group from 1991 to 1997, died Sunday of colon cancer. He was 54.
The Civic Light Opera is the South Bay's largest theater company and has often attracted critical acclaim. During his tenure, Kimber staged the 1995 premiere of "Western Star," a musical by Dale Wasserman, who wrote "Man of La Mancha." Kimber also directed such shows as "Evita," "Fiddler on the Roof," "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," "La Cage aux Folles" and "Cabaret."
His departure from the Civic Light Opera was controversial. The organization's executive producer James Blackman--another of the group's co-founders and a longtime associate of Kimber's--advocated Kimber's dismissal on the grounds that his productions cost too much, a charge Kimber denied. Kimber's position was not filled after he left.
A graduate of Gardena High School, Kimber was a designer and artistic consultant for the Up With People vocal group for nearly three decades and worked on its appearances at three Super Bowls. He also co-founded the musical theater performance program at UC Irvine, where he taught from 1976 to 1986, and served as the musical director for the first nonprofessional production of Stephen Sondheim's "Sweeney Todd."