San Francisco Off-Off-Off Broadway

Ralston Hall - 2000
Ralston Hall, College of Notre Dame, 2000

San Francisco,

Open your golden gate . . .

Tell me you're the heart

Of all the golden west . . .

Denis - 1972
Denis teaching at College of Notre Dame, 1972

Performing in the San Francisco area

--Chapter 7--

Click below
to go to
other chapters
and recordings:

Chapter 1: Introduction
Denis Moreen, 2015

Chapter 2: Past, Present, Future
Denis Retirement Party, 2000

Chapter 3: The Twelve Songs of Christmas
Moreen family Christmas tree, 1943

Chapter 4: Standing on Many Corners
New Trier HS West corners, 1968

Chapter 5: Showtime at Five O'Clock
Showtime at Five O'Clock

Chapter 6: Chicago Off-Off-Off Broadway
Northwestern University Music School

Chapter 7: San Francisco Off-Off-Off Broadway
College of Notre Dame Ralston Hall

Chapter 8: Palm Springs Off-Off-Off Broadway
Rancho Mirage Library

Chapter 9: With a Song in My Heart
New Trier High School

Chapter 10: Index of Performers and Songs
Lakeside Drive, 2017


In 1970 my partner Rob and I decided we wanted to live in warmer weather, so we moved to San Francisco. I brought with me ten years of experience as a professional musician, along with a whole filing cabinet of music arrangements I had created over the previous decade. The arrangements soon became quite handy when I discovered performance venues in the bay area.

The Village, San Francisco:

The Village - 2017
Former home of The Village, a 1970s stage venue in San Francisco, 2017

Brotherhood of Man
-- 1971

After settling in San Francisco, I started looking for music work. One night while visiting a rather notorious bar, I got to talking with one Fred Howell. We soon learned that we were both show-biz enthusiasts, so social bar talk went out the window. Instead, in true Judy and Mickey tradition, we said "Let's put on a show." And we did. It became Spoonful of Sugar, a musical revue with a cast of 16. This production still remains one of my all-time favorite musical experiences, and I treasure the friendships I made with the cast.

I began arranging music for Spoonful and remembered that two years earlier, at New Trier High School West, I had written a setting of the song "Brotherhood of Man" for the student-directed stage production, Potpourri. So, faster than a speeding bullet, I took my older setting, re-arranged it for another group, and -- voilą! -- a new arrangement was born. This version featured a vocal solo by Oscar Jackson.

P.S. Spoonful of Sugar was also memorable because Don Cavallo, the choreographer, and Henry Soares, one of the chorus members, owned a San Francisco restaurant/bar called The Fickle Fox. They invited me to join their staff as house pianist and cabaret host, a job I continued -- for 15 years!

Spoonful of Sugar program - 1971
  Spoonful of Sugar program cover, 1971

Denis and Ray - 1971
Denis and Ray Piccinini posing with their
San Francisco "Golden Awards" trophies
for live theatre, 1972

Spoonful of Sugar cast - 1971
Spoonful of Sugar cast, 1971

Brotherhood of Man, performed by Spoonful of Sugar chorus with vocal soloist Oscar Jackson, arranged and accompanied by Denis, 1971

Dinkelspiel Auditorium, Stanford University:

Dinkelspiel Auditorium - 1997
Dinkelspiel Auditorium, Stanford University, 1997

Not While I'm Around / My Buddy -- 1980

In 1970 I began pursuing a music doctoral degree at Stanford University, south of San Francisco in Palo Alto. I looked for accompanying positions and soon found myself working with Director Robert MacKinnon and his Stanford Men's Glee Club. I left the Glee Club when I graduated from Stanford in 1974.

In 1980 Bob asked me if I'd like to serve as interim director of the glee club for six months while he went on sabbatical leave. I said yes and began planning repertoire for the group, which by then had become a coed chorus.

Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd had opened in 1979, so I decided to program one of its songs, "Not While I'm Around." At the same time, I realized that the glee club women's group "The Naturals" loved an arrangement Bob had written for them of the old standard "My Buddy." So why not combine the two songs into what's now known as a mashup? Which I did, and which you'll hear.

Robert Mackinnon - 1971
Bob MacKinnon with Stanford Glee Club students, 1971

Not While I'm Around, performed by Stanford University Glee Club Naturals, arranged and accompanied by Denis, 1980

Notre Dame Theatre, College of Notre Dame:

Noel Coward cast - 1974
Noel Coward in Review cast members Jody Bettendorf, Bob Titlow, Onnie Taylor and Denis, 1974

Manhattan -- 1981

In 1971 I began looking for teaching jobs and discovered College of Notre Dame, a wonderful small institution in Belmont, about half-way between San Francisco and Stanford. I started out as a temporary instructor with one summer course and ended up teaching there for over thirty years.

At CND I met Robert Titlow, Chair of the Theatre Arts Department, and we became close friends and colleagues. Bob and I decided to mount our own musical revue in 1981, dubbing it Lullaby of Broadway. Featuring a cast of about twenty singers and dancers, it became in intense labor of love ("let's put on a show" -- to the max). I arranged most of the vocal and instrumental numbers. The show became so popular that we mounted a second version in 1990 and then re-formatted a traveling version in 1995.

"Manhattan" from the 1981 Lullaby production features three women and is accompanied by two pianists - yours truly plus my former student and good friend Chris Khoury. Chris and I served as duo-pianists for many musicals over the years.

Manhattan - 1981
Erica, Julia and Moira introducing "Manhattan" in original Lullaby of Broadway production, 1981

Manhattan - 2000
Erica, Julia and Moira reprising "Manhattan" at Denis's retirement party, 2000

Manhattan, performed by vocal soloists Erica Harris, Julia Jepson and Moira O'Hara, in College of Notre Dame stage production Lullaby of Broadway, arranged by Denis, accompanied by pianists Chris Khoury and Denis, 1981
Ah! Sweet Mystery of Life -- 1981

Also performed in Lullaby of Broadway was a long sequence entitled "Salute to the Operetta," featuring six of the College's most experienced singers - both students and teachers. "Ah! Sweet Mystery of Life" was the finale for this medley of operetta favorites.

Ah 1 Ah 2 Ah 3
Oscar and Onnie, Trevor and Birgitte, Michael and Joanne in "Salute to the Operetta" from Lullaby of Broadway, 1981

Ah! Sweet Mystery of Life, performed by vocal soloists Birgitte Moyer, Joanne Palmer, Onnie Taylor, Oscar Jackson, Michael Morris and Trevor Robinson, in College of Notre Dame stage production Lullaby of Broadway, arranged by Denis, accompanied by pianists Chris Khoury and Denis, 1981


Beginning in 1970 my primary teaching, arranging and performing venues were College of Notre Dame and The Fickle Fox. Recordings of arrangements from these two venues can be heard in other chapters of this website.

From 1970 to 2005 I also worked as musical director and arranger for some staged shows, cabaret revues and solo recitals in San Francisco. In the 1990s I began accompanying several choral groups, most importantly Ragazzi Boys Chorus in San Mateo. I often arranged music for various performances, which unfortunately were not recorded for posterity.

A mindful of memories, a handful of photos. Here are four:

Denis at piano - 1974
Denis, 1974

Denis at piano - 1988
Denis, 1988

Denis at piano - 1975
 Denis, 1975

Denis, 1995


Rob and Butchie - 1979
Butchie and Masked-Man Rob, 1979