Ohio Light Opera Performance

Ohio Light Opera will present four musicals and three operettas during its 37th summer festival, which opens June 13 at The College of Wooster's Freedlander Theatre. (Photo by Matt Dilyard)


Ohio Light Opera Rides Wave of Success into 2015 Summer Festival

Four musicals, three operettas on tap for 37th season at The College of Wooster

24 February, 2015 by John Finn

WOOSTER, Ohio, — Ohio Light Opera will celebrate its 37th season with a potpourri of popular productions this summer at The College of Wooster's Freedlander Theatre (329 E. University St.). The 2015 repertoire consists of four musicals and three operettas, featuring such icons as Cole Porter, George Gershwin, and Kurt Weill as well as Lerner & Loewe and Gilbert & Sullivan.

"We've been riding a wave of success with the early Broadway musicals, and we hope to continue that this summer," said Steve Daigle, Ohio Light Opera's Artistic Director. "We will be presenting a range of titles that we believe will appeal to a diverse audience of theatregoers."

The season opens on Saturday, June 13, with one of the most beloved American musicals: Lerner and Loewe's epic Brigadoon. "This is a real golden-age musical and a very popular work," said Daigle. "We first did it about 10 years ago and thought we would bring it back this season." Directed by Jacob Allen, this enchanting piece features Ohio Light Opera veterans Nathan Brian, Olivia Maughan, and Stephen Faulk as well as newcomers Katherine Polit and Gretchen Windt, and a number of musical favorites, including "Almost Like Being in Love," "Come to Me, Bend to Me," "The Love of My Life," "There But for You Go I," and "Waitin' for My Dearie."

The second show to open will be Porter's Can-Can on Thursday, June 18. Recently revived on Broadway, this is one of Porter's lesser-known works, but similar to Jubilee and Silk Stockings — both of which have played on Ohio Light Opera's stage in recent years. Set in the 1950s, Can-Can is an "enjoyable and enchanting escape," according to Daigle, who will direct the show. The production, which spotlights the talents of OLO favorites Ted Christopher, Boyd Mackus, and Sarah Best, is well known for the two popular hits it produced in 1953: "I Love Paris" and "Live and Let Live."

One week later (June 25), the company's third show will open when Kurt Weill's One Touch of Venus takes the stage. Noted for its trademark Weill grittiness, the production forces members of the audience to think deeply about the human condition and look at society through a penetrating lens. Directed by Daigle, the production's title role of Venus will be shared by Best and Sandra Ross. They will be joined by Ben Krumreig and Hannah Kurth. The music is delightful, highlighted by such gems as "I'm a Stranger Here Myself," "Speak Low," and "West Wind."

The fourth show opens on June 30 when Gershwin's Oh, Kay! begins its run. A comic story about bootleggers, the script was conceived by Guy Bolton and P.G Wodehouse, and concerns a rum-running operation clandestinely based in the Long Island home of Jimmy Winter and run by the aristocratic Duke of Durham and his sister Lady Kay. Directed by Christopher, the cast includes Brian and Best, as well as Emily Hagens, Spencer Reese, and Jessamyn Anderson. Similar to recent OLO productions of Gershwin's Lady be Good and Of Thee I Sing, Oh, Kay! features such popular tunes as "Fidgety Feet," "Do, Do, Do," and the highly acclaimed "Someone to Watch Over Me."

Rounding out the repertoire are two Gilbert & Sullivan productions (Ruddigore and The Yeomen of the Guard) and a popular but lesser-known work by Franz Lehár (Friederike).

Ruddigore, which opens on July 8, debuted in 1887 — just a few days after the long-running Mikado closed. The early reviews were less than glowing, but gradually the show gained acceptance, and even acclaim, from loyal G&S followers. Directed by Daigle, the plot centers on a baroner who tries to escape a curse that forces him to commit a crime every day. Love, betrayal, and recidivism follow in the show, which consists of a large men's chorus and a captivating scene when ancestors from a huge family come to life from illustrations in a photo gallery. Best, Brian, Christopher, and Faulk headline the cast of characters. Among the many popular songs are "When the Night Wind Howls," "My Eyes are Fully Open," and "There Grew a Little Flower."

Friederike, which opens July 14, is not as well known as Lehár's Count of Luxembourg, A Merry Widow, or Land of Smiles, but it is, nonetheless, a charming and intriguing work loosely based on real-life events, according to Daigle, who will direct the show. Set in the 18th century, Friederike exhibits a quality of sophistication based on period costumes. The large ensemble cast, which includes Maughan, Sill, Sturdevant, and Windt among others, has plenty of pathos. It is a sentimental piece that will help to transport the audience to a simpler time. The most popular songs from the show are "Oh Maiden, My Maiden" and "Why Did You Kiss My Heart Awake?"

Yeomen, which opens on July 22, first took the stage in 1888. The composers always regarded it as their finest collaboration. Directed by Julie Wright Costa, the show has a strong chorus of men and women with one of the more heartfelt pathos endings. Cast members include Sturdevant, Christopher, Mackus, and Ross. The most recognizable work is the emotionally grabbing "I Have a Song to Sing, O!"

In addition to the seven shows, the company will also present a symposium near the end of the season again this year. "We felt it was important to continue [the symposium] based on the enthusiasm it generated a year ago," said Daigle. "We expect to have five speakers and several live performances during the four-day event."

For additional information about Ohio Light Opera's 2015 Summer Festival and to order tickets, call 330-263-2345 or visit  Ohio Light Opera's website.