WOOSTER, Ohio — After a two-year absence, the Ohio Light Opera returns to the College of Wooster campus this summer, with a nearly full slate of performances, including ‘Cinderella,’ ‘Hello, Dolly!’ “Pirates of Penzance” and more.
In residence at the college since 1979, the theater company was fully online in 2020 and played a shortened season at off-campus venues in 2021, due to the COVID pandemic.
Ohio Light Opera executive director Laura Neill said it would be great to be back at the college’s 500-seat Freedlander Theater for opening night on June 18. “It’s going to be a lot like a regular season,” she said.
The company will perform six shows over six weeks this year, instead of a typical season of seven shows over seven weeks. They decided to play it safe, she said, unsure how the pandemic and high gas prices might affect attendance. Ticket sales are strong, she said. “I have no doubt it will be a huge success.”
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The theater company built a national following in the decades since its founding in the 1970s as the Kent State Light Opera. The group, which moved to Wooster in 1979, initially focused on the works of Gilbert and Sullivan but expanded its artistic scope to include operettas and musicals.
The company engages dozens of actors and musicians each year, a mix of professionals and students, through nationwide auditions, who spend the summer in Wooster. A live orchestra is featured with all performances.
First-time visitors are often surprised by the high standard of performances – professional quality, but with a community theater feel, Neill said. “People say to me, ‘Wow – that’s awesome. We can come to Wooster and pay less than $60 for a ticket and get free parking,’” she said.
The shows are presented in repertoire, that is to say repeated during the season, alternately, including in the morning and in the evening. In the last week of the season, it is possible to see the six shows in three consecutive days.
One of this year’s shows, “The Fantasticks,” will be performed outdoors, with piano only, on the grounds of the Wayne Center for the Arts in downtown Wooster. Neill said the outdoor shows are a continuation of last year’s schedule of performances, which were outdoors or online due to COVID.
Community partnerships and performances, she said, were a good thing to come from the pandemic.
This year’s program consists of “Cinderella”, “Hello, Dolly!” “The Student Prince”, “Pirates of Penzance”, “The Mock Marriage” and “The Fantasticks”, from June 18 to July 31. Tickets are $56 for adults, $20 for ages 16-23 ($20 and $10 for “The Fantasticks.”) Information: ohiolightopera.com