A Tribute to The Light Opera of Manhattan

Founded by William Mount-Burke in 1968, Jerry & Raymond carried on as co-artistic directors after his death in 1985. Todd Ellison took over as the new music conductor.

At that time LOOM was also forced to find another home & after 2 detours, The 91st Playhouse was where the final curtain fell in 1990.

The Eastside Playhouse in 1985 before it was torn down. LOOM's co-artistic directors Raymond Allen & Jerry Gotham are standing in front -- the operetta was Victor Herbert's Naughty Marietta. The theater was on 74th St. between 2nd & 3rd Ave.

How I Became Staff Photographer

Although The Light Opera of Manhattan started in 1968 it was not until 1982 when it was performing at the Eastside Playhouse on 74th Street that I first discovered LOOM, (as it was known to its fans). The performance was a rare showing of Gilbert & Sullivan's The Grand Duke. LOOM was an instant hit for me. The wonderful music, the humor, the intimacy of the theater made me feel as if I was being entertained at my home instead of at a Manhattan theater -- at a price less than today's popcorn at what we now call 'movie theaters'. I couldn't get enough of it. Even moreso, being a repertory company I soon felt that the performers and staff were a sort of family. The Light Opera touched my heart and I wanted to have a record of the beauty I saw being presented before me on the unbelievable schedule of 52 weeks per year -- the only such theatre in America.

My interest in photography finally found its inspiration which was soon to become truly a labor of love. At one of LOOM's many open houses I asked if they could use some pictures of the performances. (I never saw any displayed and I knew such photographs would have meaning for me as a reminder of the good times I was having at LOOM.) I spoke to Judy O'Sullivan, who was soon to become one of LOOM's general managers and was looking for volunteers. She informed me that a photographer was actually a staff position for which funds were nil -- but would I like to come to LOOM's upcoming gala free of charge in exchange for some photographs and she would see about my photographing a performance. In my enthusiasm I said I would provide the equipment, materials and developing -- we need not talk about money. I guess I made her an offer she couldn't refuse and my photographs and dependability would later speak for themselves.

My first shoot was the opening performance at the Wednesday matinee of Sigmund Romberg's The Student Prince in the fall of 1983. It was the beginning, and almost the end of my career as their staff photographer.

Using a motor drive Mamiya 645 with inter-changable lenses, I clicked away, especially at all the poignant moments in the operetta, to document the magic of what was occurring at this little theater on 74th street. I rushed home to Staten Island, (yes that's right Staten Island), to develop the film and have a 16"x20" print ready for the next day's performance. I was very proud of it. I had captured a moment of what today for me is a priceless treasure. When I see that photograph it takes me back to a time and place filled with a spirit I can no longer find -- my own personal Gone With the Wind

I said almost my last photo shoot. That was because I later found out that William Mount-Burke, (LOOM's director and founder who continued to conduct in spite of blindness from diabetes), was upset at the noise created by my camera -- especially at key moments in the operetta. His illness had only heightened his auditory awareness. He was about to nix my photographing performances but was dissuaded by the pleas of the performers and staff who spoke of the high quality of my photographs as well as their desire to see themselves in pictures with the possibility for some visual publicity. A deal was set. I could now photograph to my heart's content during dress rehearsals. A welcome solution which gave me an opportunity to see the cast and crew in a behind the scenes perspective. Those 8 years remain for me a glorious time for which I was well recompensed in intangible assets as well as countless photographs of plays, galas & performers.

LOOM was not the MET, nor Lincoln Center, nor broadway. LOOM was a very special place where you could watch aspiring talented musical performers literally grow right before your eyes and with dedication earn equity membership -- a virtual university for musical comedy.

I offer this site to those fans who remember LOOM fondly; the performers and staff who miss it as much as I; to William, Raymond, & Jerry -- lest their endeavors and personal sacrifices be forgotten;

-- and for all those who only heard about it--

as John Kenrick wrote to me -- the few of us who do remember need remind the world "that once there was a spot for one brief shining moment..."


This is my first performance picture & is from the 1st Act of Sigmund Romberg's The Student Prince. Standing at attention on the left is the now much acclaimed Robert Cuccioli of Phantom, and Jekyll & Hyde fame who started at LOOM. (Click on him to go to his website.)