A growing SDMT readies ‘La Cage’

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Production is company’s first with new executive director Kollar Smith aboard
By James Hebert | Sept. 17, 2015

San Diego Musical Theatre has earned a reputation for doing things big, and its latest production is a good example (though far from its biggest-ever): a revival of “La Cage Aux Folles” with 17 cast members, a full orchestra and an actor from the original Broadway staging, David Engel, among its stars.

But while SDMT preps to open the sprawling show Friday, the company is also growing behind the scenes.

The nearly 10-year-old nonprofit recently hired Colleen Kollar Smith, a versatile San Diego theater artist turned administrator and all around idea person, as its first executive director.

While Erin and Gary Lewis, the theater’s married founders, will remain SDMT’s top leaders and continue to chart its programming, Kollar Smith — who earned a master’s in nonprofit leadership and management at the University of San Diego — will take on a prime role in community outreach and fundraising, plus serve as an artistic sounding board.

Colleen Kollar Smith

Colleen Kollar Smith

“We’re at a place where, because we’re growing and it’s just getting too big for us, we said, ‘This is the time, we need to take the plunge,’ ” Erin Lewis said of the hire.

“(Kollar Smith) is really knowledgeable, she’s super well-spoken, and she brings kind of a younger, live energy, just thinking a little differently.

“She’s a super think-outside-the-box person, which I think can move us forward to where we want to be. And make us better.”

Kollar Smith, who did most of her acting and choreography locally at Lamb’s Players Theatre, actually appeared in youth productions years ago with the founders’ daughter, Jill Lewis, who’s also a frequent presence on local stages.

(Jill Lewis’ husband, Robert J. Townsend, is in the “La Cage” cast; he recently finished a stint in the soon-to-close Broadway production of “Mamma Mia!”)

“It’s been pretty remarkable to see how willing they are to trust,” Kollar Smith says of the Lewises. “They want to serve the company, which is exciting.

“They haven’t done much fundraising in the past, so that’s obviously a very large focus, (along with) board development. SDMT has been producing very large, quality productions for many years, and now it’s time for them to (venture further) into the community.”

Larry Raben is directing “La Cage,” whose cast also features the top local director James Vásquez, taking the stage for the first time at SDMT.

jim.hebert@sduniontribune.com

A scene from the 2010 Broadway revival of “La Cage Aux Folles,” whose cast members included Karl Warden. Warden is choreographing the San Diego Musical Theatre production of the show. — Joan Marcus

A scene from the 2010 Broadway revival of “La Cage Aux Folles,” whose cast members included Karl Warden. Warden is choreographing the San Diego Musical Theatre production of the show. — Joan Marcus

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