2021 OLO Light!

A Little Less but So Much More!

“Try to Remember” was a theme last summer during our 2020 virtual season as we looked back over 41 years of Ohio Light Opera history. Our faithful patrons and the Wooster community are longing to hear the tunes they both remember and hope to discover every summer in Freedlander Theatre. As COVID restrictions start to ease, the company is poised to make its full return to a regular summer festival season in 2022. But the show must go on! We are thus happy to give you “2021 – OLO Light!” a reduced offering in July of five programs, three of which will be produced at Wooster community venues and two of which will be streamed online, but with no audience.

 The live shows, at Wayne Center for The Arts and Main Street Wooster, will feature recognizable music consistent with our usual summer offerings: The Fantasticks, Trial by Jury, and a musical comedy revue titled The Musical Magic of OLO. The streamed programs, designed for true operetta lovers close and far away, will feature a rare Viennese operetta—with a La Bohème twist—titled The Daring of Diane and a revue titled Operetta: Rare and Well Done. 

In the spirit of OLO, a group of 20 company members (ten technicians and ten singers) will be in residency for a little over three weeks, presenting thirteen performances. Due to COVID restrictions, the performances will be accompanied by piano and very minimal stage sets. The five shows will be costumed, staged, and choreographed with the usual high-spirited energy that has established Ohio Light Opera as America’s premier lyric theater festival. Please join us in July as we stand side-by-side with the Wooster community, or bring OLO into your home by way of the internet.


The Musical Magic of OLO!

The Ohio Light Opera was founded in 1979 as a Gilbert and Sullivan repertory company. By the turn of the century, the repertoire had grown to encompass 71 works from the operetta canon. Over the past 20 years, OLO has further expanded its repertoire—now at 146 titles—to include stage works of most of the greatest composers and lyricists of traditional American musical theater. Not only did innovators like Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Rodgers & Hammerstein, and Lerner and Loewe drive the evolution of the Broadway musical, but—quite unlike the musicals of today—many of their show songs became popular hit tunes of their day. Join us in this casual cabaret performance as we look back at some of the most well-known and beloved songs from the mid-century musicals that OLO has produced. Songs featured include “The Impossible Dream,” “You’re Just in Love,” “My Funny Valentine,” “I’ve Got Rhythm,” and “Climb Ev’ry Mountain.”

The Fantasticks

Music by Harvey Schmidt • Book and Lyrics by Tom Jones

It is a safe bet that not too many people—in fact, to be truthful, no one!—would have bet in May 1960 that the small-scale show opening at the Sullivan Street Playhouse in Manhattan would run for 42 years and more than 17,000 performances. The world’s longest-running musical, The Fantasticks is based on the 1894 play Les Romanesques by Edmond Rostand (of Cyrano de Bergerac fame). The immense popularity of the work rests with its fanciful, affecting, and poignant Romeo-and-Juliet-like storyline, its compact dramatic structure, and—to be sure—the seemingly timeless popularity of its opening song, “Try to Remember.” The plot centers on two young neighbors, Matt and Luisa, who have fallen in love, but whose seemingly feuding fathers are determined to keep them apart, even to the point of erecting a wall between their properties. In truth, this is all part of the fathers’ plan to bring them together: forbid children from doing something, and they will do it. Their attempt to end the “feud” and let the children have their way goes temporarily awry when a mock abduction, coordinated by the gallant and alluring El Gallo, has unintended effects on the children, who separate and “venture out in the world.”   

Trial by Jury

Music by Arthur Sullivan • Libretto by William S. Gilbert

It is one of the supreme frustrations of all operetta lovers that almost all the music from Gilbert and Sullivan’s first collaboration, the 1871 Thespis, is lost. Thus it is their 1875 one-act comic opera Trial by Jury that must serve as the springboard for understanding their musical and dramatic innovations and their domination of the British musical stage for a quarter century. Billed initially as a dramatic cantata and based on a comic ballad that Gilbert had penned in 1868 for Fun magazine, the show won immediate accolades from the press and created a sensation with London’s theater-going public. The farcical plot concerns Angelina’s breach-of-promise-of-marriage suit against Edwin. Between a less-than-unbiased jury and a lecherous judge, the trial’s outcome is, to say the least, unexpected. The timelessness and seemingly perpetual relevance of Gilbert’s words—in all 14 of his collaborations with Sullivan—is no better captured than in the court usher’s opening advice to the jury: “All kinds of vulgar prejudice I pray you set aside.” 

The Daring of Diane

Music by Heinrich Reinhardt • Libretto by Arthur Anderson
New Performance Edition by Steven A. Daigle

In its 41 seasons, the Ohio Light Opera has presented a remarkable 146 show titles, chosen from the operetta and vintage musical comedy repertoire. As a small but significant step toward both tackling the remaining 10,000 or so titles and fulfilling its mission to bring to life forgotten gems, OLO is proud to present, via live streaming, the American premiere of an unknown, but fully engaging, Viennese operetta titled The Daring of Diane, with music by Heinrich Reinhardt. The show began life in Vienna in 1907 under the title Die süßen Grisetten (The Sweet Grisettes) and, in its English translation in 1912, was billed as “the leap year operetta.” Reminiscent of La Bohème, it concerns three struggling artists—the painter Julien, the musician Severin, and the poet Prosper—who share a Montmartre garret. The latter two have secured their sweethearts, but Julien is constrained by the condition of his aunt’s 3000-franc gift that he never have a love affair.  Left alone, Julien hears a knock on the door. It is an elegant woman who claims that she is the wife of a marquis, is disenchanted with her husband, has paid off his aunt, and, in return, wants to pose for his painting of Eve and the Serpent. The winsome musical score, replete with a trio and two quintets, is topped off by the de rigeur sumptuous Viennese waltz “Mine and Mine Only Thou Art.”

Operetta: Rare and Well Done

Since the earliest days of operetta, historical figures—famous and infamous—have served as inspiration for characters, plots, songs, and shows. The stage counterparts of these figures—from Cleopatra to Casanova, Madame Pompadour to Napoleon, Boccaccio to Goethe—have provided us history lessons, but tempered with the satirical, romantic, and glamorized stylings of operetta. OLO has taken advantage of the inactivity during the COVID crisis to craft, and secure materials for, a live-streamed concert titled Operetta: Rare and Well Done, comprising 13 songs associated, in one way or another, with historical personages. Our goal—as with The Daring of Diane—is to chip away at those 10,000 operetta titles that OLO has yet to present on stage. Composers represented include Jacques Offenbach, Franz von Suppé, Arthur Sullivan, and George Gershwin. The historical characters range from queens to sculptors to actors to composers.  Make no mistake … these songs, drawn from the French, German, British, and American repertoire, are rare! But you will be humming or knee-slapping the tunes for days.