South Bay Musical Theatre (formerly Saratoga Drama Group) has been presenting top-notch musical theater to the South Bay Area for nearly 60 years. Each annual season features three fully staged and costumed productions with a live orchestra, including both beloved musical “classics” and lesser-known—but equally captivating—shows.
Originally formed in 1963 under the auspices of the Saratoga Federated Church, the Group mounted its early productions in the church’s Richards Hall. By 1966, audiences had grown so large that the Group moved its venue to the 300-seat Saratoga Council Chambers, changing the name of the building to the Saratoga Civic Theatre.
By 1969 the Group was “big business,” and incorporated as a nonprofit under the name Saratoga Drama Group. Everyone who participates in any aspect of the productions may join as a member, and these members annually elect twelve people to serve on the Board of Directors, which oversees the organization. Supported by a growing membership, the Group continued to improve the caliber of its productions, making investments in facilities and equipment, and mounting ever more lavish shows for sellout audiences.
As the Saratoga Drama Group grew in stature, it presented many Bay Area premieres of Broadway musicals, including Mame (1969), Hello, Dolly! (1971), On the Twentieth Century (1982) and State Fair (1999). It also interspersed its regular season with occasional specials such as Amahl and the Night Visitors at Christmas time, and gala musical revues featuring dozens of Saratoga Drama Group performers recreating roles they played in the original productions.
Today the group continues its proud theater traditions while adapting to the changing environment. Each production typically involves 60 to 100 members doing everything from building sets to hanging lights to sewing costumes—not to mention singing, dancing and playing music! But the end result, a high-caliber production that delights thousands of audience members, makes all the effort worthwhile. In May of 2009, the group’s membership approved a motion to change its name to one “more fitting the organization.”
The name today—South Bay Musical Theatre—was chosen to help further its ongoing mission to move forward in the quality and scale of its musical productions and reach a larger audience. In a crowded field of local community theatres, South Bay Musical Theatre will continue to set the standard both in the quality of shows it presents and the involvement of a community of people who make it all come to life.