WOOSTER, Ohio – The Ohio Light Opera’s 41st season kicks off with a classic Broadway musical, “South Pacific,” this Saturday, June 15, then offers its traditional wide variety of shows—seven in all that rotate throughout the season, which runs through Saturday, Aug. 10—on stage at The College of Wooster’s Freedlander Theatre.
Often cited as a hidden gem, the OLO is revered by theatre enthusiasts from around the nation, and even the world, and serves as the only such company in North America that runs seven fully-staged productions with up to 40-member casts and a full orchestra, in a repertory season, according to Laura Neill, executive director of the OLO.
“(At) a time when the classic performing arts are struggling to maintain the public’s attention and on private support, the OLO continues to lead the way in ensuring that our national and international lyric theater legacy remains vibrant and accessible to today’s audiences. This commitment is no better illustrated than by this season’s slate of OLO shows,” Neill stated to the local media. She also noted that the 2019 productions will showcase more dance than in the past.
Here’s a quick rundown of this year’s shows:
- “South Pacific,” last produced by the OLO in 2004, is the well-known musical by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II about two parallel love stories threatened by racial prejudice with the backdrop of World War II. The original production won the 1950 Tony Award for best musical.
- “Girl Crazy,” which makes its OLO debut on Thursday, June 20, and its hit song “I Got Rhythm” may also be familiar to regular theatregoers. A 1930 comedy by George and Ira Gershwin, it captures the Roaring Twenties in a tale of a Danny Churchill, a New Yorker who is sent to Arizona by taxi to manage a family ranch and settle down, but instead he turns it into a wild casino, featuring a throng of chorus girls.
- “Into the Woods,” also new to the Freedlander Theatre stage, will open on Thursday, June 27. Premiered on Broadway in 1987 and composed by Stephen Sondheim, the unique plot intertwines a baker and his wife, whom are childless due to a witch’s curse, and several familiar fairytale characters.
- “The Pirates of Penzance,” returning to the OLO on Wednesday, July 3, is a nod to the company’s early years when they strictly performed William Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan selections. The 1879 crowd-pleasing comic opera follows Frederic, a pirate apprentice, who after serving out his duty, joins the police force, in part to avenge his old mates, and in the process falls in love with Mabel, whose father is the target of a pirate revenge plot himself.
- “Music in the Air,” a new OLO offering, will premiere on Thursday, July 11. Hammerstein’s story, with music by Jerome Kern, features a young Bavarian couple in the 1930s traveling to Munich in hopes of getting a song published, but they run into problems—both romantic and otherwise—along the way.
- “The Devil’s Rider” is not only making its OLO debut, but its U.S. premiere on Wednesday, July 17. The rare production, with music by composer Emmerich Kálmán, includes 19th-century Austria-Hungary political intrigue as Sándor, a Hungarian riding master, falls in love with the daughter of his political opponent.
- “Perchance to Dream,” originally written by Ivor Novello, will be the fifth OLO show to debut this year Wednesday, July 24. The title is taken from a quotation in William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” while the intriguing plot follows the flirtations, quarrels, and tragedies of three sets of characters who inhabited the same mansion in England over a 127-year period.
All seven shows will be performed the week of July 30-Aug. 3, and there will be several other special events, such as “Kids Day” July 3 and the downtown “Pops Concert” July 4.
The OLO is the resident professional company of The College of Wooster. To order tickets and/or for more information, please visit OhioLightOpera.org or call the box office at (330) 263-2345.