Tell a Tale of Cock & Bull

Coming Up Next - Star Wars Parody - Return of the Deadeye

By now, especially if you just read the title of this piece, you are probably aware that we are producing a Star Wars parody for our 50th Annual Gala – Return of the Deadeye: The Farce Awakens. It’s got fencing, fighting, laser guns, torture, revenge, aliens, sorcerers, chases, escapes… and Gilbert & Sullivan! This will be our Golden Gala (a champagne gold just like C3P0) and we’re excited, and somewhat amazed, to think that the Lamplighters have been doing this for 50 years!

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, Luke Moonwalker is tinkering with a new droid and accidentally triggers a message from Princess Ida Organa, revealing evil military plans and seeking help from Obi-Bun Thornobi. Luke is smitten, vows to rescue Ida, and joins Obi-Bun who tells him of the mystical Force and the Deadeye Order. With the help of the smuggler Juan Solo and his copilot Poohbacca, they race to join the Rebellion. Can Luke rescue the Princess before the Death Straw sucks the galaxy dry?

Lamplighters Music Theatre presents Return of the Deadeye

Most of our main roles have been cast and we are pleased to announce Michael Desnoyers, last seen as Ernest in our spring production of The Grand Duke as our hero, the callow young Luke. Ellen Leslie, Josephine in our most recent H.M.S. Pinafore, will play the tough and spunky Princess, and Robby Stafford, also most recently seen in H.M.S. Pinafore as Captain Corcoran, will portray dashing scoundrel Juan Solo. Juan’s loyal and hairy friend Poohbacca will be played by long-time Lamplighter John Rouse, last seen as Charles Edward Stewart in Candide. Charles Martin and Chris Uzelac (Dick Deadeye and Sir Joseph Porter respectively in H.M.S. Pinafore) share duties as D’arth Vader (don’t ask, you’ll have to come and see it for yourself). And last but definitely not least, legendary Jedi Master “Old Bun” will be portrayed by the one and only F. Lawrence Ewing, again last seen in H.M.S. Pinafore, as Sir Joseph Porter.

You'll also have the opportunity to support the Lamplighters at our silent auction, raffle and fund-a-need live auction. Among other things, we have vacations, art and memorabilia, some beautiful gift baskets, and one-of-a-kind items made with love by members of the Lamplighters including a beautiful collaborative hand-knitted blanket. If that’s not enough, we invite patrons to cap off the evening by joining the costumed performers and crew after the show for a champagne reception. Don't miss our celebration of 50 years of this quintessential Lamplighter art form!

If you have any quality items that you think may fit well in our auction, please contact us at or 415-227-4797. Memorabilia, vacations, art, experiences, luxury gifts and goods, fine wines and liquors… we welcome your suggestions.

Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts
650-903-6000 · Purchase tickets
Sunday, November 8 • Silent auction at 3PM, Performance at 4pm

Herbst Theatre, San Francisco
415-392-4400 · Purchase tickets
Sunday, November 15 • Silent auction at 3PM, Performance at 4pm

The Gala Writing Process by Barbara Heroux

“How do you DO it? Every year, I think “They can’t possibly top last year’s Gala” – but every year, you come up with something even funnier! How do you DO it?”

Every fall, we hear some variation of this sentiment from happy Gala patrons. Well, it IS pretty remarkable. The Lamplighters Gala Committee essentially writes a full-length show, year after year. The Gala has evolved over the past 50 years – yes, this is the 50th Gala! – from mostly a “greatest hits” concert with a champagne reception, to rewriting one or two numbers as topical parodies, to its current form: an original-book show with nearly all new lyrics to about 25 songs. Of course, it helps – a LOT – that the score is already written, and that it’s (mostly) by Arthur Sullivan. And that William S. Gilbert has given us such a genius-level blueprint of how to write lyrics.

Barbara Heroux, David Cottingham and Jean McMasters Williams in Lamplighter's Major General Hospital, The Next Generation from 1990

Even Gilbert & Sullivan only wrote 14 shows. We’re on Number 50. Well, probably more like Number 30-something if we only count the “book shows,” which pretty much started with Major General Hospital in 1983 (which actually had a LOT less plot than most people’s fond remembrance of it!)

So how do we do it?

Back in the day, Gil Russak would call up a bunch of people and we’d go sit around at his house and drink a lot of cheap red wine and toss out silly ideas and Gil would write the Gala, and then direct and conduct it. When Gil had the really terrible idea of dying in 1986, we had to come up with new ways to do it. For quite a few years, it continued as a fairly free-form thing, with Geoff Colton and me taking turns at the helm and a shifting team of 6 or 8 writers, including spectacularly talented writers like Bev Sykes and Ray Coshow, contributing ideas and lyrics.

Who’s on the committee? People volunteer, or we spot somebody with a unique sense of humor and ask them if they’d like to join us. Some are great at brainstorming, churning out lots of ideas for possible plot points and jokes. Some are good at culling through those ideas and forming a through-line. Some are good at writing lyrics or coming up with puns and one-liners. The group is usually about 10 people, about 6 or 8 of whom are at any given meeting.

In recent years, we’ve become much more organized. Along came the new generation: Mike Dederian, Jonathan Spencer, Chris Uzelac and Cary Rosko bubbled up to the top of the committee process as committed, talented, and ORGANIZED team members. Mike, Jonathan and Chris have each served as head writers of recent Galas, taking the primary responsibility for writing the book and integrating the work of the various lyricists into it. Cary has served as committee chair for the past several years, and she is a Virgo’s Virgo. Schedules. Timelines. Reminders. Deadlines. Somehow, without bleeding all the fun out of it. Even though you have to climb about a zillion steps to get to her house for meetings.

This year, for instance, we met in February to dissect last year’s Gala: What went right? What could be improved? And what themes are starting to surface for this year? We agreed on a basic timeline, leading up to having the script and all lyrics done in time for a “table read” (just what it sounds like, a bunch of people sit around a table and read it all out loud and sing all the music) in mid-August, and scheduled a few brainstorming meetings for March and April. Over the course of four meetings, we tossed around several possible themes for this year: Shakespeare (a revival/revision of Rosencrantz & Guildenstern’s Excellent Adventure from 1995); Breaking Bad (Breaking Bard? Somehow bring the Shakespearean theme into the high-school-teacher-turned-to-crime scenario?); Star Wars? With the new Star Wars movie coming out in December, it seemed the most timely theme for parody. Shakespeare will always be with us. Breaking Bad is already a bit out of the immediate popular culture. So by the end of April we had decided to go with Star Wars as our basic theme. Barbara Heroux as Benicia Martinez in Lamplighter's 1989 Gala, The Ballad of Buttercup Gap

Some of the committee members are rabid Star Wars fans who can practically recite the movies word for word. We try to keep from having too many in-jokes by listening to others on the committee who say “I don’t get that, and I don’t think most of our audience will, either.” Our aim is to have a few inside jokes for Star Wars fans, a few inside jokes for G&S fans, and 90% of the show understandable and enjoyable for anybody with a passing knowledge of Star Wars and / or G&S.

So, how to connect Star Wars and G&S? Somebody came up with the idea of using a framing device, similar to the movie The Princess Bride, of a grandfather telling his grandchildren about his favorite story. The topsy-turvy twist here is that Grandpa is a huge Star Wars fan, but the grandkids are not interested in popular culture because they’re totally into … you guessed it … G&S! So Grandpa has the task of telling the Star Wars story through a G&S lens, in order to get the kids interested in it so they’ll come with him to the new movie.

Princess Leia of the planet Alderaan becomes Princess Ida of the planet Adamaant …
Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi becomes the reclusive and strange poet Obi Bun-Thornobi …
The inseparable droids R2D2 and C3P0 become Mark-0 and GCP-0 …
There’s a large hairy creature named PoohBacca who claims he “wasn’t there…”
You get the idea.

Having sketched the main characters and roughed out a plot line, we then turn to choosing songs. This is where the encyclopedic knowledge of G&S in the brains of people like Baker, Rick, and me comes in handy, suggesting songs that have the right feel for what needs to be expressed here, and trying to keep voice types lined up with the music chosen. We’ll usually want an opening chorus … then a song or two introducing main characters and filling in the back-story … then something off the wall and wacky. Then a few more scenes and songs to advance the plot and bring in more characters, bring everything to a head and end with a big first act one finale cliffhanger so you want to come back and see how it all gets resolved. Second act, keep developing the main story line, with a few detours for craziness, and then bring it all together, preferably with a Gilbertian resolution like babies switched at birth or the insertion of a single word into the legal document that’s been causing all the problems.

Now – get your tickets! This Gala is going to be one of the most smashingly funny shows we’ve ever produced. Mike Dederian is this year’s head writer, and he has come up with a non-stop hilarious script, with ideas and lyrics contributed by the rest of the committee. Phil Lowery stage directs, Monroe Kanouse and Baker Peeples will music direct and do their magic at the pianos, and the cast will feature a plethora of Lamplighters, veterans and newcomers alike. Trust us, you do not want to miss this one. May the farce be with you!

Barbara Heroux ('74)

Lamplighter Spotlight - Monroe Kanouse

A Music Director/Conductor and pianist with the Lamplighters since 1965, Monroe knows a thing or two about Gilbert & Sullivan. When we found out he remembers the Lamplighters forming in 1952 we had some questions about what he remembers and how he came to be involved. Here’s what he had to say…

Monroe Kanouse

My first on-stage experience with Gilbert & Sullivan was in my senior year at Berkeley High School. Our annual operetta performance in 1953 was Ruddygore, and I was in the chorus, playing a Bishop in the portrait gallery. My one line was, “No!” in answer to “Carry off a lady.” I had auditioned for the role of Richard Dauntless but, although I could sing it decently enough, I think they felt that I was too nerdy for such a swashbuckling part. The Despard in that show was my good friend Mike McGinley, who later sang a couple of roles with the Lamps. I had started to learn about G&S a few years earlier through a couple of vocal scores that I picked up for a buck or two. They were very old and tattered Boosey and Hawkes editions with that awful type face of theirs, but I immediately got hooked, and played and sang them by the hour. Only later I came to realize their true value, as they contained a lot of material that had later been cut or altered, such as the “toffee” dialogue scene in Patience, or the second verse of “Long years ago, fourteen maybe.” I even prepared a presentation for my senior-year English class, when I told stories and played records of some of my favorite scenes.

Four years later I began a long and happy G&S association with the legendary Arthur Conrad on the UC Berkeley campus. He directed a series of shows from 1957 through 1963, one each summer, ten performances each, in the Studio Theater in Dwinelle Hall. The theater was very small and perfectly suited for such performances with young singers and piano accompaniment. I was music director and sang various roles. We began with Iolanthe in 1957. Oh, how much we didn’t know! We even pronounced the tenor TOL-lo-ller instead of Tol-LO-ller. But the show was very spirited thanks to Arthur’s direction, and I made my solo stage debut as the afore-mentioned Tolloller. After two years in the navy, I returned for the 1960 Ruddygore, which I accompanied, followed by Patience 1961 in which I played Grosvenor (my favorite role), Gondoliers 1962 where my old friend Mike McGinley and I wowed them with our portrayals of Giuseppe and Marco, and ending with a 1963 revival of Iolanthe, in which I moved to baritone as Strephon. Those were great times for me!  

Meanwhile, the Lamplighters had been formed in 1952. I had heard and read about them from the beginning, but didn’t see a performance until about 1955. I really loved them, but of course they were all enough older than I was that I didn’t think about trying to participate until later, when I was in graduate school. Then I contacted them about possibly stepping in as substitute second piano when necessary. The first pianist (of their two-piano team) was the excellent Leroy Miller. I recall doing various shows at the Harding and the McAllister Street Theatre. Until quite recently I would still occasionally see in my scores little penciled notations with arrows showing “Leroy” playing such-and-such notes and “MK” others.

In 1967 Lamplighters asked me to conduct one performance of Mozart’s Così Fan Tutte in Pittsburg, which they had done several times already with piano at the Harding. The director was Arthur Conrad and company stalwarts such as Giorgia Prugh, Peggy Overshiner and Orva Hoskinson were in the (excellent!) cast. Although I knew the score well (I was doing it at the time with Western Opera Theater), I had practically no rehearsals with the singers. A small ad hoc orchestra was pulled together for the occasion, also without enough rehearsal. I was pretty scared, but I guess we pulled it off. Never again!

My next Lamplighters experience, some years later, happened in 1987, right after, and because of, the untimely death of Gil Russak. (Then Board President) John Vlahos called me to ask if I would take over the coming production of Ruddygore, which Gil had been going to do. Of course I was honored and thrilled to do so. John paid me a very nice compliment about the sound of the orchestra after the first rehearsal, and that really charged me up for the coming run (at Presentation). That show began the long string of Lamplighter productions that I’ve been lucky enough to be involved with over the last 28 years. People often ask if I have a favorite show, or a favorite moment. I suppose that would be the performance of Barbara’s wonderful Princess Ida at Buxton. But, like so many performers, my favorite show is usually the one I’m doing at the moment. So, in a few weeks, it will probably be the Gala. I’ve been a Star Wars nut for decades…

Monroe Kanouse ('65)

Buxton Group 1995  

Volunteer Spotlight – Kathryn Fox Ma

What do seahorses, high tea, and designer clothing have in common? The answer is the inimitable Kathryn Fox Ma, one of Lamplighters Music Theatre’s most active volunteers. Since 2007, Kathryn has been our go-to person for organizing and beautifying the silent auction displays that the Lamplighters feature at the annual Gala. With a sophisticated eye for design, Kathryn provides the invaluable service of showcasing the items in ways that encourage attendees to bid, which has a direct impact on the Lamplighters’ fundraising efforts. Over the years, our silent auctions have generated more than $170,000 in support for the Company, and Kathryn is quick to share praise. “It’s really the whole team of us. Jim MacIlvaine, Leontyne Mbele-Mbong, Kristen Jones, and all the Guild volunteers who help support the Lamplighters.”

Kathryn Fox Ma

Kathryn routinely donates a gift basket of handcrafted, natural soaps and accessories from Seahorse Fine Soaps, of which she is the proprietor, as well as a High Tea For Two serving set and goodies in a keepsake box, to the auction. Both items are among the bidders’ favorites each year! But her volunteerism isn’t restricted to this event. Kathryn also brings the decorative sparkle to our annual spring fundraiser (Too Much Happiness, formerly known as Hidden Treasures) and is a consistent organizing force—and a delightful presence—at many donor receptions and Company meetings.

Kathryn and her husband Zach became involved with the Lamplighters in 2004 through their daughter, Marina, who began participating in the Gilbert & Sullivan Scenes summer program (a collaboration between the Lamplighters and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music). “She felt so comfortable and happy in the program that she attended an audition workshop with the Lamplighters, and soon after got cast in a production of The Mikado,” says Kathryn. “Marina was young, so I stayed there for rehearsals, too. I didn’t want to just sit around, though, so I asked Barbara Heroux [who was Artistic Director at that time] if I could help. Barbara would throw me into anything- it was fun!” Marina has since appeared in many Lamplighters productions, and also volunteers to create special video and slide presentations. Not to be outdone, Zach—a Tai Chi Sifu—has donated certificates for martial arts instruction, as well as pieces of his original artwork, to the auctions, and he can usually be found serving behind the bar at our special events.

Zach, Marina, and Kathryn Ma

Kathryn’s most recent business venture, Brava! Fashions, combines her love of the performing arts with her degree in Merchandising/Marketing from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in San Francisco. The clothing line, which has been showcased at a fashion show at the Lamplighters rehearsal space, features stylish performance attire for female orchestral musicians and other women on-the-go. “The line is really taking off, especially as I’m able to give the designer feedback from musicians, who have different needs depending on their instrument,” says Kathryn. She adds that one of the dresses in the collection is named after Diana Dorman, principal clarinet player in the Lamplighters Orchestra, as well as Orchestra Contractor & Music Librarian. “The dress has classic lines with no adornment in the front, so it doesn’t interfere with my clarinet. I love it!”

The Mas have been an important part of the Lamplighters family, in a variety of ways, for over a decade. “Knowing we can depend on volunteers like Kathryn to put together a great silent auction makes the staff’s work so much easier,” says Development Director Amy Himes. “Her friendly, no-nonsense manner and a generosity of spirit makes her a great person to work with.” Hats off to you and your family, Kathryn—we are so grateful for your involvement!

Volunteers Make It Happen at Lamplighters Music Theatre!

Since our beginnings in 1952, the Lamplighters have depended on the donated time and talent of numerous individuals. From the dedicated stagehands who ran the show in the days before we started performing at professional venues, to the battalion of stitchers who have built, altered, and repaired costumes over the decades—from our cheerful corps of daytime administrative helpers, to our dedicated Board of Trustees—for these and so many more, we are truly grateful. We rely on our volunteers to help keep the Lamplighters shining brightly!

Please take a few minutes to complete our Volunteer Survey. Your confidential responses will help us better express our appreciation to our current volunteers, as well as recruit new ones. You’ll also have a chance to let us know if you want to become more involved—and we hope you will!

CD Project Update

Our project of recording all 14 Gilbert & Sullivan operettas is shaping up nicely. We currently have four on sale: Princess Ida, The Sorcerer, Iolanthe, and The Pirates of Penzance, and have The Grand Duke and HMS Pinafore in production now, with The Grand Duke, tentatively set for release on November 8. Next, we plan to record Ruddygore at our performances this winter. All performances are recorded in full including dialog. Individual tracks for all CDs not already produced or in progress are available for sponsorship in advance. Just let us know which song you are interested in by emailing Sarah at A list of the songs available for sponsorship on theRuddygore CD is available online here.

CDs can be ordered from our online store by clicking on the images below. To preview individual tracks or order digital downloads click here.

Lamplighters' The Pirates of Penzance CD  Lamplighters' Iolanthe CD   Lamplighters' The Sorcerer CD  Lamplighters' Princess Ida CD

Ruddygore cast announcement

We had a huge turnout of very talented performers for our recent Ruddygore auditions, giving our directors some very difficult decisions to make. The final casting and arrangement of the chorus is still in progress but we are excited to announce the following lead roles:

Sir Ruthven Murgatroyd/Robin Oakapple: Samuel Faustine, Samuel Rabinowitz

Rose Maybud: Megan Fleischmann, Erin O’Meally

Sir Despard Murgatroyd: Charles Martin, Chris Uzelac

Mad Margaret: Jennifer Ashworth, Kathleen Moss

Richard Dauntless: Michael Desnoyers, Robert Vann

Dame Hannah: Deborah Rosengaus, Cary Ann Rosko

Sir Roderic: William Neely, Robby Stafford

Old Adam: Wm. H. Neil, Rick Williams

Zorah: Giovanna Hutchison, Ashten Smith

Thank you so much to everyone who auditioned. We hope to see you again soon!

Charles Martin and Kathleen Moss in Lamplighter's Ruddygore 2006

Wish List

In addition to donations of time and money, the Lamplighters always appreciates thoughtful in-kind gifts. The following is a short list of items that would make our mission easier: an iPad for our company store, plain white paper; vacations, gift certificates, air miles, and other items of value for our Gala auction. We are also seeking an electrician to install two ceiling fans in our rehearsal space (in spaces without current wiring).

Please contact us at if you think you have something of interest. Lamplighters Music Theatre is a registered non-profit 501(c)3 organization and all donations are tax deductible to the extent allowable by law. We thank you for your continued support!