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27 October 2002

LL50.gif (17206 bytes)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.

display.JPG (36562 bytes)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 thunderous applause.

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(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!)

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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 ago! Cortez.JPG (40200 bytes)
jess-bh.JPG (50191 bytes) 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 at intermission.
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!

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Ken Malucelli, tenor and director reunites with Mary McMahon Brown, leading contralto for many years.  It was so good to see both of them again.
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.)

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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.)

Quote of the Day

"For look you, there is humour in all things, and the truest philosophy is that which teaches us to find it and to make the most of it."

~ Jack Point, Yeomen of the Guard (Gilbert & Sullivan)

Photo of the Day

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Ann checks the photo wall of faces thru the years



One Year Ago
A Taste of Home
My mother once went on at great length about how when she was a kid one of her favorite foods was pancakes with pork gravy.

Two Years Ago
The Further Adventures of
Thelma and Louise
One of the things I will miss most about Peggy when she leaves on Sunday is our long conversations. We have found that we are quite compatible and have discussed just about everything you can possibly imagine in the past six weeks. We've laughed and cried and bared our souls. I will miss that sorely.

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