Tell a Tale of Cock & Bull

Artistic Director, Rick Williams, Stepping Down

2017 is turning into a year of changes at Lamplighters Music Theatre.

We are sad to announce the retirement of Rick Williams from the role of Artistic Director after serving the organization so wonderfully in this capacity for the last four years. Rick joined the Lamplighters as a performer in 1978 - his first appearance was in the chorus of Ruddygore - and he very quickly became a regular and popular fixture on our stage, performing every G&S patter baritone role, often multiple times, and winning (so far) four Bay Area Critics Circle Awards. As Artistic Director, he has brought tremendous dedication, drive and enthusiasm to the Company.

We will greatly miss our regular interactions with Rick, but he remains an integral and vitally important part of the Company, as he sends this message to the entire Lamplighters family - onstage, offstage, and in the audience:

"It has been my honor and privilege to serve you and this great Company as Artistic Director for the past four years. In that time, I have been thrilled to achieve several longed-for accomplishments, including the first fully staged and costumed production by the Lamplighters of Gilbert and Sullivan’s final work, The Grand Duke - a landmark of which I am intensely proud. In addition, we were able to produce Ruddygore again despite having lost our entire set in years past. But, most of all, I am proud of our new production of The Mikado, Gilbert and Sullivan’s most popular and well-known work, in the face of unprecedented problems and obstacles posed by contemporary attitudes and controversies surrounding this piece. This was an extremely difficult time for the Company and for me personally, representing a challenge I had not anticipated and for which I was certainly unprepared. Nevertheless, we succeeded, through the incredible talent of our Company, its directors, artists and designers, with a special mention of the invaluable contributions and assistance of my good friend and colleague, Baker Peeples."

But it is now time for me to retire; I have reached my goals for the Company and can depart knowing it is in good hands. I will still be here, though, as a friend and member of the Company for the rest of my life!

March 31st is Rick's last day as Artistic Director. The search for his replacement is in progress.

Lamplighters Music Theatre Mourns the Death of Beloved
Co-founder Orva Hoskinson

It is our very sad duty to inform you that our beloved co-founder, Orva Hoskinson, the guiding spirit and artistic soul of the Lamplighters Company since its beginning in 1952, passed away on Thursday, January 26, 2017. He was 92.

Orva co-founded the Lamplighters with Ann Pool Mac Nab in the summer of 1952. From the beginning, his intention was to bring the Gilbert & Sullivan canon to audiences in productions of the very highest possible artistic professional caliber within the limitations imposed on what was at the time a small group of semi-professional and amateur performers drawn from the San Francisco Bay Area community.

As Orva himself recounted in the first volume of the Lamplighters’ history (“The Lamplighters: 25 Years of Gilbert and Sullivan in San Francisco”): “We wanted to do G&S because we thought there was more to the operettas than had been gotten out of them in the shows we’d been in. Ann [Pool] and I felt that they could be done in an artistic, elegant, polished way. We thought of it as doing them OUR way. We thoroughly respected the G&S material. It’s really sophisticated, and so literate. Certainly Offenbach doesn’t offer a text that is so knowledgeable, so verbal, so articulate. We thought the operettas were quite a gold mine for us.”

From the time of the Lamplighters’ founding, Orva was not only the Company’s first stage director, but also one of its most important leading performers. Through the years, he remained our most important and influential director, training generations of Lamplighter performers both directly and by example not only in the history and style of G&S, but in singing, acting, and all the arts of stage performance. For many of us, he was our first and most important theatrical guide, mentor and inspiration.

It is sadly fitting that Orva should pass as the Lamplighters prepare their new production of the single Gilbert & Sullivan show with which Orva is most intimately associated­­. Due substantially to its long association with Orva, Patience has been a perennial favorite throughout Lamplighters history since the Company’s original production in March and April, 1958. And no operetta in the entire G&S canon is more closely connected to him—both as actor and as stage director—than this one.

As noted in the Lamplighters’ history, the Company’s initial production of Patience was “patently designed around Hoskinson as Reginald Bunthorne and [contralto June] Wilkins as Lady Jane,” with “Hoskinson’s most famous characterization spr[inging] into being almost full-grown” in that first production. In the summer of 1963, after the Lamplighters had presented their third production of Patience earlier that same year, the venerable D’Oyly Carte Opera Company visited San Francisco with their own very traditional, quintessentially British production of Patience. San Francisco theater critic Arthur Bloomfield was not impressed. In his words: “San Francisco’s lowly Lamplighters, out there [at the old Harding Theater] on Divisadero Street, have a comic insight into this particular slice of fruitcake which . . . surpasses the well-advertised product from abroad . . . . One could only yearn for the more aggressively mock misery of their counterparts in the Western Addition. . . . It looks as if San Francisco’s Orva Hoskinson remains in firm possession of the largest heap of Bunthornian laurels.”

For many years thereafter, Orva’s interpretation and performance of the role of Reginald Bunthorne was considered definitive. As Robert Commanday once put it in a Chronicle review: “Well, there was Gielgud’s Hamlet, and there is Hoskinson’s Bunthorne.” It is not surprising in the least that a photograph of Orva as Bunthorne—along with the great June Wilkins as Lady Jane—was chosen to adorn the first volume of the official Lamplighters history. In his honor, we are dedicating our new production of Patience, directed by Artistic Director Emeritus Barbara Heroux, to the memory of Orva Hoskinson.

Orva taught each of us just about everything we know on the subjects of acting, character, musicality, good taste, and honest good humor onstage. Not only that, he accomplished this by both precept and example, with the most beneficent guidance, gentle coaching, patient instruction, love of the art, and sheer affection for the Company and its members. Almost every day there is something that reminds us both how incredibly lucky we were to be guided to find the Lamplighters, and to be mentored by this incomparable man.

We all owe him so much. Through founding the Lamplighters, his progeny now extend worldwide.


Rick Williams
 — Artistic Director


Baker Peeples
 —Resident Music Director

Read the obituary. A memorial service and celebration of Orva's life will be held at the Presentation Theater in San Francisco on June 18th at 3pm. Details to come later!

In Memory of John Vlahos

We are also deeply saddened by the passing of one of our dearest long-time members, John Vlahos. John was a wonderful principal performer, who also served as President on our Board of Trustees for many years, and, after retiring from that position, continued to serve as a Trustee on the Board. The Lamplighters honored John at our 2016 Gala for his years of service, friendship, and dedication to the Company. A celebration of his life will be held at Mira Vista Golf and Country Club in El Cerrito on March 12th. You can read John's full obituary here:

Gala Auction Results

We had a lot of fun at our recent Gala and raised $57,561 between both the Mountain View and San Francisco auctions. All funds raised go directly towards producing our performances while keeping our ticket costs low, to providing performance opportunities to local artists, and to promoting appreciation for the arts through our education programs. Thanks to everyone who volunteered, donated, or otherwise participated in the auction!

Theatre Bay Area Awards Nominations

The Theatre Bay Area Awards honor excellence in professional theatre through a peer-based, Bay Area-wide adjudication process. The awards ceremony was held at the Geary theatre on December 5th. This year we were honored to be nominated for 9 awards:

• Outstanding Production of a Musical - Ruddygore
• Outstanding Production of a Musical - The (new) Mikado
• Outstanding Direction of a Musical - Jane Erwin Hammett for Ruddygore
• Outstanding Direction of a Musical - Ellen Brooks for The (new) Mikado
• Outstanding Musical Director - Baker Peeples for Ruddygore
• Outstanding Musical Director - Baker Peeples for The (new) Mikado
• Outstanding Costume Design - Miriam Lewis for The (new) Mikado
• Outstanding Male Actor in a Principal Role in a Musical - F. Lawrence Ewing for The (new) Mikado
• Outstanding Ensemble in a Musical - cast of The (new) Mikado

Although we ultimately didn't take home any prizes it was a privilege to be nominated alongside such talent, and we were also honored to perform There is beauty in the bellow of the blast for our peers.

Rounding out our 2016/2017 Season

We have 2 productions left in our current season: Gilbert & Sullivan's Patience – an uproarious satire that pits the straight-laced morality of Victorian ideals against the sashaying artful drama of the controversial aesthetic movement that occurred towards the end of the Victorian era; and A Song to Sing, O! - The Story of Gilbert & Sullivan – the fascinating tale of the dynamic duo's collaborative lives told through their own correspondence and songs. We hope you'll join us!

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco
Tickets: 415-978-2787 or

Friday February 3, 8pm
Saturday February 4, 2pm & 8pm
Sunday February 5, 2pm

Lesher Center for the Arts, Walnut Creek
Tickets: 925-943-7469 or

Friday February 10, 8pm
Saturday February 11, 2pm
Sunday February 12, 2pm

Mountain View Performing Arts Center, Mountain View
Tickets: 650-903-6000 or

Saturday February 18, 8pm
Sunday February 19, 2pm

A Song to Sing, O!
Herbst Theatre, San Francisco

Tickets: 415-392-4400 or

Saturday April 22, 8pm
Sunday April 23, 2pm

Lesher Center for the Arts, Walnut Creek
Tickets: 925-943-7469 or

Thursday May 4, 8pm

Menlo-Atherton Center for the Performing Arts
Tickets: 415-227-4797 or

Sunday May 14, 3pm