What’s the secret sauce for selecting a successful season?

show selectionFor community theatre companies like South Bay Musical Theatre, the annual exercise of selecting which shows to stage is a critical decision, and many competing factors come into play.

  • Do you snap up that hot new show the moment it’s released, or lock down a perennial favorite?
  • Do you stretch yourselves with a serious story, or stoop to silly slapstick?
  • Do you pick a challenging title that will attract the best actors, or stick with a Broadway blockbuster that your patrons may prefer?
  • Do you foray into adult fare, or favor the family friendly?

Unfortunately, there is no universally correct answer—and what’s right for SBMT might be wrong for our numerous neighbors to the north.

So how did SBMT’s Board of Directors settle on the three shows and two concerts that are now in the early stages of planning? It was a long process involving research, surveys, and open-forum debate. Discussions have already begun on our 2020-2021 season, but here’s how we approached the 2019-2020 season that is about to begin:

  • Research: We ranked past shows based on the length of their Broadway runs vs. how well they have sold for us in the past. We noted that shows like Finian’s Rainbow, Curtains, and Funny Girl surprised us with stronger sales locally than their brief Broadway runs might have portended.
  • Survey: We polled our patrons in 2017 and asked them to name their favorite shows—and favorite type of shows. We confirmed what we suspected: that SBMT’s patrons skew older demographically, and they tend to have conservative tastes. Many prefer classics from the Golden Age of Broadway, and are less enthusiastic about shows with adult themes or hard rock music. (There were exceptions, however, and sometimes the data seem contradictory. People don’t fit in neat boxes, and they apparently enjoy a variety of styles.)
  • Debate: If you attended our annual Members meetings, you may have been among those to weigh in when we kicked open the discussion to ask for direct input on the shows you’d most like to see.

After all this input, each show in our new season ultimately took a different path to its final position on the roster.

A Gentleman's Guide to Love and MurderA Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, which opens our season in September, has been on SBMT’s wish list for several years after winning four Tony Awards—including Best New Musical—in 2014. When it was finally released for amateur production, we pounced to secure the rights. The risk of selecting a new show is that other theatres in the area may want to do it, too. Fortunately for us in this instance, we zigged while others zagged, and we will be the first community theatre to bring this hilarious farce to the South Bay. If you’re not familiar with the show, the video below (featuring the Broadway cast) provides a four-minute synopsis to get you intrigued.



South PacificSouth Pacific, which closes our season next June, scored near the very top of the previously mentioned survey of SBMT subscribers. The Board of Directors initially worried that this Rodgers & Hammerstein classic might not be as relevant as it was 70 years ago, because the interracial marriage conflict at its heart is now relatively commonplace. The initial plan was to present the show in concert format, reviving the beloved score minus the problematic plot. However, Lee Ann Payne, who just directed our very successful production of Thoroughly Modern Millie, was eager to tackle the full show and is confident that she can do it justice. As further justification, we noted the 2008 Broadway revival was a critical success, running for 996 performances and winning seven Tonys, including Best Musical Revival. (See video highlights below from the Tony Awards for that year.)



She Loves MeShe Loves Me, which opens in January, is one of those perennial favorites that is not too well known, but is always an audience charmer. The plot has been recycled in movies like The Shop Around The Corner and You’ve Got Mail, and the musical won five Tony Awards in 1964 and Best Revival in 1993. This show was the last one to be approved for our upcoming season. Because of the Christmas holidays, our winter show always needs to be one that is less demanding to build and costume. SBMT hasn’t staged the show since 2007, and we thought its most recent revival on Broadway in 2016 (starring Laura Benanti, Jane Krakowski, and Zachary Levi) might rekindle some interest among our patrons. If you’re not familiar with the show, check out this clip from the Tony Awards.


Songs I Wish I'd WrittenSongs I Wish I’d Written (At Least In Part), the first of two original concerts for the upcoming season, is a one-night-only event slated for February 9, 2020. This show will be a continuation of the highly successful Broadway By The Decade formula that we have explored every year since 2011, with show creator Brad Handshy again at the helm. This concert, featuring our most popular singers, sells out every year, so it was a no-brainer to add it to our schedule again in 2020. Brad, however, has already covered every significant decade of the 20th century (from the 1920s through the 1990s) in previous concerts, so he wanted to take a detour this year in honor of Stephen Sondheim’s 90th birthday. The show will feature songs—from any decade—that Sondheim has said he either admires or considers his favorites.

The Fabulous 40s Songs of Love and WarThe Fabulous 40s: Songs of Love & War, an original concert event that runs concurrently with South Pacific May 30-31, 2020, brings back Dave Leon, who directed our award-winning production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Dave promises a “big band cabaret collection of classic tunes from the 1940s that became staples of The Great American Songbook.” This show came about as Board of Directors members brainstormed fundraiser ideas. We realized that our greatest strengths lay not in organizing a typical money-maker like a crab feed or golf tournament, but in putting on Noteworthy Entertainment. By running this concert concurrently with South Pacific, we can take advantage of that show’s set and get double duty from our rental of the Saratoga Theater. We’re betting that our audience will be nostalgic for the hit songs from this era that go beyond the Broadway canon and are universally known and loved.

Tacos & Tunes Take TwoTacos & Tunes Take Two. Speaking of fundraisers, we are also planning our second annual Tacos & Tunes event for November 9, 2019. This exclusive one-night-only event will again offer our talented singers a chance to strut their stuff for an appreciative audience. If you’ve ever wished that you could eavesdrop on our closed auditions in order to hear some fantastic singers belt their favorite songs along with live keyboard accompaniment—well, this is your chance. There will be plenty of great food, with drinks included! In keeping with the theatrical theme, you’ll also find a tempting selection of silent auction gifts awaiting your bids in this fun-filled evening.

Individual tickets for any or all of these productions go on sale TODAY, Monday, July 1. For best value and seat selection, you can still subscribe to multiple shows and save up to 26% over single-ticket prices. See our subscription brochure and order form for details, or call our box office at 408-266-4734.


By | 2019-07-01T17:08:34+00:00 July 1st, 2019|2019-2020 Season, Announcements, Behind The Scenes, Board meetings, Video Link|

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