Sat 6/17-Sat 8/12
To slightly alter that old saying “everything old is new again,” this summer at Ohio Light Opera in Wooster is, well, old and new and in the between — new being relatively so, of course.
The newest is The Music Man from 1957. It’s hard to believe this all-American musical comedy beat out the musical drama West Side Story in the 1958 Tony Awards for Best Musical, but it did. But sometimes, you know, the little guy wins. After all, The Music Man was very nearly a one-man creation, all Meredith Willson, to be exact, whereas West Side Story was an all-star team of Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim, Arthur Laurents and Jerome Robbins. And who can ignore the original script writer — Will Shakespeare? Think Kansas City against the Yankees in the World Series.
Old, however, is musically speaking, accurate. H.M.S. Pinafore is now 139 years old. First performance in 1878? Wow, that’s staying power And in the middle, there’s a trio of sparklers from 1924, a couple of which have not been seen anywhere since then, plus one a little older and one a little younger.
It’s the same with the performers. There’s a great mix of experienced troupers — Julie Wright Costa and Ted Christopher are the younger contingent; Boyd Mackus and Spiros Matsos are the more mature vets. Among the first-timers are tenor Adam Griffiths, and sopranos Ivana Martinic and Sarah Polinski. Then there are the younger veterans — Sarah Best, Alexa Devlin, Nathan Brian, Stephen Faulk, Grant Knox, Benjamin Krumreig and Daniel Neer. Altogether the company consists of 40 very talented singers, dancers and actors.
The three musicals dating from 1924 are Primrose in an OLO premiere, with music by George Gershwin. The title of the production may be unfamiliar to you, which is not surprising, considering it played in London for 255 performances and then fell off the map. Gershwin became infatuated with jazz, so he concentrated on Lady, Be Good for New York, and thus we have the first fully staged production of a Gershwin musical that is now 93 years old.
The other two from 1924 you will have heard of: The Student Prince by Sigmund Romberg and Countess Maritza by Emmerich Kálmán. The former is one of the most popular works in the lyric theater canon. It was the longest-running Broadway musical of the 1920s, with very good reason. The book and lyrics are by Dorothy Donnelly. Ohio Light Opera is perhaps the foremost exponent of the operettas of Kálmán in the world. So far, OLO has produced 12 titles by this composer, and the promise is for more to come. The libretto is by Julius Brammer and Alfred Grünwald. But even if you’ve never knowingly heard one note by Kálmán, you will immediately recognize the most famous music from this work — Tassilo’s lament “Play, Gypsy.”
Cole Porter is represented by Anything Goes, his wonderful romp of 1934, featuring the one-time nightclub singer Reno Sweeney, who changes careers to become an evangelist. Nobody says you have to believe all this, just enjoy the wonderful words and music of Porter, with a book by P. G. Wodehouse and Guy Bolton. Closing out the season is another fantasy by Victor Herbert — The Lady of the Slipper or a modern Cinderella, loosely re-told. Lyrics are by James O’Dea, with book by Anne Caldwell and Lawrence McCarty. It’s another Ohio Light Opera premiere. This charmer dates to 1912, but has not been fully staged in over a century.
See? Everything old IS new again. Come to Ohio Light Opera and see/hear for yourself. Call the box office at 1-330-263-2345, or visit the website, ohiolightopera.org.