2016-2017: A LOOK BACK

When we began the year, we took a collective deep breath, and…plunged, headlong, into an enormous challenge: not one, but two big Broadway musicals, including one that had just closed on Broadway and had never been produced at the high school level anywhere.  And in between we saw yet another wonderful iteration of Music of the Night, the student-directed Broadway revue now in its 16th year and getting stronger and bigger every year.

Our season was built around two comedic greats, Mel Brooks and Woodie Allen.  We began knowing that both Musical Director Jon Nathan and choreographer Christina McCarthy, despite both already having more than full time careers at UCSB, would be available—which made this, for me, the single best artistic year for me ever.  Young Frankenstein was a raucous, joyful, and hilarious ride, and working with Jonathan Mitchell on the amazing set complete with dungeons, secret passages and rotating walls, and an operating table that rose 20 feet above the decks was exhilarating.  Young Frankenstein was the beginning of an ensemble led by seniors (Ben Zevallos, Sarina Wasserman, Hazel Brady, William Blondell, and Sophia Hurtado) that was remarkable for the tightness of the cast, and their shared desire to not just be good, but great.  They took the notion of legacyseriously, and as a group that in four years were members of eight full-scale musicals (Chicago, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Big Fish, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Pippin, Hair, Young Frankenstein, and the national high school premiere of Bullets Over Broadway), that was a monumental task.  But boy, were they up to it!  I have been doing this here for 21 years, and I have loved every show we have done, but Bullets Over Broadway was an over-the-top, pull out all the stops experience that rivaled any theatre produced in Santa Barbara at any level in the past year.  Where else can you build an actual Gowanus Canal and toss bodies in water?  At the high school where we once rained 500 gallons of water each night in Singing in the Rain, that’s where!  Our goal, always, is to give the most professional experience to our students, and to our audiences, that we possibly can.  Santa Barbara High School theatre is a public high school that operates on the level of elite performing arts high schools, and that is a testament to an administration led by Principal Dr. John Becchio who embraces the place of the arts in education, and is a tireless advocate for the program.    

Thank you, audiences, for coming back year after year to see what we dare.  This is a magical space, with happy ghosts and the spirits of over 90 years of theatre in this building; where the walls are covered with love letters from graduating seniors and we move constantly and assuredly to what’s next.

See you in the Fall!

Otto Layman