27 October 2002
We've been to a marvelous party.
This was the 50th anniversary of the founding of The Lamplighters, San Francisco's Gilbert &
Sullivan Company. I have mentioned the company many times in this journal. We
began attending shows and then ushering for shows in the middle 1960s, about the time the company
had celebrated 10 years. Who knew we would be around to see the 50th birthday, and
what a long, eventful road it has been.
The fledgling company's first productions were held in a church
basement or a garage, and then a remodeled book store. The reviewer who came to the
first production had to sit on the stairs because they had run out of folding chairs.
What a contrast, then, to come to this celebration in the 900
seat, plush Herbst Theatre, the companion building to the San Francisco Opera
House. In the lobby of the building was a display representing the 50 year
history. I had to smile a bit when I saw the display because down in the lower left
hand corner of the first panel was a sign which indicated that the display was courtesy of
the San Francisco Performing Arts Archive, that museum which houses all of the Lamplighter
memorabilia that the three of us who organized it 20 years ago donated to the
museum. It's nice to see that after all these years, they are able to pull stuff to
create this lovely tribute.
As for the show, it was, as always, fun...the loose plot being that
operetta was being put on trial for its lack of political correctness. This allowed
special numbers by many beloved performers, past and present, who showed up to be a part
of the historic occasion. The audience was given little "goodie bags," in
which there were props to be used throughout the evening--a Union Jack to wave, an
eyepatch to put on, a gold crown to wear, etc. Silly stuff. The audience loved
it. (I don't do stuff like that; I'm too inhibited. But I did enjoy looking at those
around me enjoying themselves.) The biggest ovation went to the "Harding
All-Stars," -- tenor Adrian MacNamara, contralto Mary McMahon Brown, soprano Georgia Prugh and baritone Bob Cortez, who had begun performing with the company back at the Harding Theatre in the 1960s.
At the conclusion of the performance part of the evening, the
founders of the company--Ann (Pool) MacNab and Orva Hoskinson--were brought on stage to
(Ann in silver--my picture of Orva did not come out)
And then there was The Party--wine, food, music, and
lots of catching up to do. A lot of "I haven't seen you in a long time!"
and "what are you doing now?" and "you look marvelous" could be heard
floating around the room along with the sound of popping champagne corks. (I was
personally surprised at how many people mentioned reading this journal, at least
occasionally...I had no idea!)
||Baker Peeples (left) started as a tenor in the chorus,
worked his way up to leading roles and then, when Gilbert died, he took on the job of
musical director. On his right is attorney John Vlahos, a Lamplighter patterman
from the 1960s who has been the president of the Board of Directors for many, many years.
|Bob Cortez also started with the company in the 1960s
and his career with The Lamplighters has spanned several decades. Walt and I ran
into Bob and his partner Bill on a platform overlooking a canyon on Kauai several years
||Jess Brown, left, was box office manager for something like 30
years. Barbara Heroux is the current General Director, and Paul Toulman, wine taster
to the stars, greeted folks at the door of shows for many years, and took care of refreshment
|Will Connolly (left), my good friend, is claiming that
he does not know Roger Pierson....the two of them obviously have had a difference of
opinion about what one wears to a "fancy dress" affair!
||Ken Malucelli, tenor and director reunites with Mary
McMahon Brown, leading contralto for many years. It was so good to see both of them
|OK, Katie Doyle--here's the photo I promised you I'd
put into my journal!
(Katie is a singer and actress who performed with the Lamplighters for years, here with Will "Oh It's You" Connolly.)
As the evening drew to an end, most of
the patrons had left and it was down to the regulars--the hard core Lamplighters hanging
around the food tables. Just like every other Lamplighter party I've ever known.
Here's to the next 50 years, guys! (Someone
should have written a book.....)
(BTW, Lamplighters reading this may not know that there was an "Elijah seat" in the theatre last night. Someone--and I don't know if that person would want to be revealed, so I'm leaving out the name--bought a seat so that at least one seat in the sold-out house would be available so Gilbert could attend. I got all misty-eyed when I heard that.)