Broadway by the Bay
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Broadway by the Bay, also known as the San Mateo Civic Light Opera, is a musical theatre company in San Francisco, California, United States. It began as the San Mateo Community Theatre, a community group established by the San Mateo Recreation Department, with Dr. Randolph Hunt as music director and Robert Lynch as drama director in June 1963 at Hillsdale High School in San Mateo, California. The group changed its in 1983 name to Peninsula Civic Light Opera, and again in 1999, to Broadway by the Bay.
Broadway By the Bay is an outgrowth of a San Mateo Recreation Department program that originated in the 1950s as "La Honda Music Camp." Each summer, that program employed the talents of young musicians, singers, and actors to produce primarily Gilbert and Sullivan's comic operas, which were staged at the camp site in Jones Gulch near La Honda, California. The program grew to become the "San Mateo Community Theatre".
Dr. Randolph Hunt and Robert Lynch were the directors for the first two summer productions at Hillsdale High School, both of which were Gilbert and Sullivan operas. Dr. Hunt had directed a number of the Savoy operas when he taught at Capuchino High School in San Bruno, California, from 1950 to 1960. After earning his doctorate, Hunt taught at Crestmoor High School from 1962 to 1963. He was also on the staff of the La Honda Music Camp, which was known for its summer musical productions, and his success with the camp encouraged the City of San Mateo to establish a non-profit community musical theater. Lynch had acted in local productions of the popular Gilbert and Sullivan operas.
The first production was Patience, with three performances in August 1963 in the little theatre at Hillsdale High School and an additional performance at La Honda Music Camp in Jones Gulch, near La Honda, California in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The cast utilized local high school and college students and included a future international opera singer, soprano Luana De Vol. The opera premiered in London in 1881 and is a satire on the aesthetic and transcendental movement among artists and poets led by Algernon Swinburne and others, of whom Oscar Wilde later became one of the most famous poets. Dr. Hunt directed a small orchestra that included musicians from throughout San Mateo County.
In the summer of 1964, Hunt and Lynch collaborated on The Mikado, with six performances at Hillsdale High School and an additional performance at La Honda Music Camp. This was a more ambitious production. The opera premiered in London, at the Savoy Theatre, in 1885. The Japanese setting of The Mikado is a mere veneer under which Gilbert and Sullivan veiled their satire of British customs and politics.
Citing increasing responsibilities at Merritt College in Oakland, California, where he taught from 1963 until his retirement, Dr. Hunt did not return for the summer 1965 production. Instead, Anthony "Duke" Campagne, the band director at Hillsdale High School, worked with Robert Lynch on a production of H.M.S. Pinafore, which premiered in 1878 in London and is a satire of social class inequalities. There were four performances at Hillsdale and one at La Honda Music Camp.
After Gilbert & Sullivan
After the three Gilbert and Sullivan operas, the San Mateo Community Theatre moved in a different direction. Although Anthony Campagne returned, he was joined by a staff that included Kenneth L. Ton, the drama director at Capuchino High School, and Ben Denton, the choral director at Aragon High School. For the first time, the SMCT presented a classic Broadway musical: Oklahoma! by Rodgers and Hammerstein. Ton had a great influence on the production, which heavily used Capuchino graduates, including Gordon De Vol, Joyce Thomas, and Jerry Klinger in lead roles. Once again, the cast and orchestra were drawn from high school and college students throughout San Mateo County. Another first was moving the performances to the little theater at the College of San Mateo. Overall, the production was a great success and encouraged SMCT to produce more musicals.
Dr. Hunt returned as a director for the 1967 production of West Side Story by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim. The performances were moved to the auditorium at San Mateo High School, later known as the San Mateo Performing Arts Center. This has been the home of the San Mateo Community Theatre, now known as Broadway by the Bay, ever since. There were serious cast problems in this production that marred the overall impression of those who attended. Nevertheless, staff changes soon resulted in better directions for future productions, which often relied on professional and semi-professional talent, as well as non-professional singers and dancers. Broadway by the Bay, as it is now known, has achieved consistently high, near professional standards for many years.
The San Mateo Community Theatre became a non-profit organization in 1978. In 1983, the Board of Directors expanded the focus of the company and changed the name to "Peninsula Civic Light Opera." In 1999, a decision was made to gradually change the name to "Broadway by the Bay," to more accurately reflect the fact that the group stages Broadway-type musicals as opposed to operatic productions.
Broadway by the Bay Today
Broadway by the Bay continues to grow with nearly 6,000 season subscribers and over 3,000 single show ticket sales per production. The company made a major contribution to the national theatre scene by co-producing the full-scale world premiere of a musical version of The Prince and the Pauper in August 1993.
Broadway By the Bay is a not-for-profit corporation for the public benefit which provides full scale musical theatre productions of professional quality at family prices. The company continues to grow in professionalism, attendance and stature.
The three or four show season opens with the first production in May, the second in late July and early August, the third in September, and the fourth in October. Most productions are appropriate for family entertainment. Each show normally has nine performances at the San Mateo Performing Arts Center (SAMPAC), which seats 1,600 people. Broadway by the Bay moved to the Fox Theatre in Redwood City due to a major renovation at SAMPAC in their 2011 season.
The actors, some musicians, some technical staff, box office workers, ushers and office staff are all volunteers, as is the 21-member Board of Directors. Over 40,000 volunteer hours are contributed each year. In addition to the tremendous contributions of time, the productions are supported by a budget of over $500,000. Regular staff includes the Executive Director, Artistic Director, Development Director and Office/Box Office Manager. Production directors are contracted for each show. A year-round office is maintained at 851 Burlway Road, Suite 300, Burlingame, California.
- Interviews with Randolph Hunt and Robert Lynch, 1963–64
- Luana De Vol website
- Eyewitness account by Robert E. Nylund, member of SMCT, 1963–66
- Robert E. Nylund
- Broadway by the Bay website
- Peninsula Civic Light Opera