Broadway by the Bay

Broadway by the Bay

Broadway by the Bay, also known as the "San Mateo Civic Light Opera", is a community 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.


Historically, 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 a musical (primarily Gilbert & Sullivan operettas), which was staged at the camp site in Jones Gulch near La Honda, California. The program grew to become the "San Mateo Community Theatre" with summer productions of three Gilbert & Sullivan operettas from 1963 to 1965 at Hillsdale High School.

First productions

Dr. Hunt and Robert Lynch were the directors for the first two summer productions at Hillsdale High School, both operettas by Gilbert & Sullivan. Dr. Hunt had directed a number of the operettas 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 operettas. Both Hunt and Lynch were considered leading experts of the popular operettas. [Interviews with Randolph Hunt and Robert Lynch, 1963-64]

The first production was "Patience", which Gilbert & Sullivan subtitled "Bunthorne's Bride," 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. [Luana De Vol website] The operetta was premiered in London in 1881 as a satire on the aesthetic and transcendental movements led by Oscar Wilde. 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 clearly a more ambitious production. The operetta had been premiered in London, at the Savoy Theatre in 1885. Although "The Mikado" has a Japanese setting, it actually satirizes British customs and politics; much of the political satire seemed quite appropriate during the controversial 1964 political campaigns between Lyndon Johnson and Barry Goldwater.

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". There were four performances at Hillsdale and one at La Honda Music Camp. [Eyewitness account by Robert E. Nylund, member of SMCT, 1963-66]

After Gilbert & Sullivan

After three Gilbert & Sullivan operettas, 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. [Robert E. Nylund]

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 with 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. [Broadway by the Bay website]

The San Mateo Community Theatre became an official 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 "The Prince and the Pauper" in August 1993. This musical is currently being reworked for a future Broadway production.

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 family entertainment. Each show normally has nine performances at the San Mateo Performing Arts Center (SAMPAC), which seats 1,600 people.

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. [Peninsula Civic Light Opera]


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