By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma City University’s award-winning Oklahoma Opera and Music Theater Company will present its 66th consecutive season featuring six works that explore the themes of love and friendship.
The 2017-18 musical theater season at Oklahoma City University’s Bass School of Music will include the world premiere of an American opera, the university debut of an iconic work by Stephen Sondheim and a classic musical from the Golden Age of Broadway.
The OKCU Music Theater Company is the world’s oldest continuously running campus troupe devoted to both opera and music theater,
The season opens September 29 – October 1 with the musical comedy “Sister Act,” featuring a cast of 33 and a 13-piece band. Based on the 1992 film starring Whoopi Goldberg, the show’s disco-themed score was composed by Alan Menken, renowned for musical classics such as “The Little Mermaid,” “Beauty and the Beast” and “Aladdin.” The production will take place on the historic Kirkpatrick stage in the Fine Arts Center at 2501 N. Blackwelder Ave.
November 3-5, Sondheim’s “Company” will make its OKCU debut as a spotlight opera, with piano accompaniment, in the intimate Burg Theatre. Winner of six Tony Awards in 1970-71, the work won the Tony for Best Revival of a Musical in 2007. The musical centers around a surprise birthday party for a 35-year-old bachelor, Robert, who is dating three women and thinks he finally might be ready to settle down. However, his observations of his married friends make him reluctant to leap into that commitment.
Presented on the Kirkpatrick stage November 17 – 19 will be Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro” — one of the most performed operas of all time. It will be presented in Italian with English translations projected above the stage.
According to a press release, the “comic opera features a cast of dozens, full orchestra, disguises, surprises and compromises.” The score’s most memorable songs: “Duettino- Sull’aria,” the third-act duet between the countess and her maid featured in the movie “Shawshank Redemption.”
The world premiere of “The Vaudevillian” runs February 16-18 on the Kirkpatrick stage.
David Herendeen Oklahoma City University’s director of opera and music theater describes the new American work as “’Pretty Woman’ meets ‘La Traviata.’” The performance will feature music and lyrics by Thomas Pasatieri — who created the orchestrations for films such as “Fried Green Tomatoes” and “Legends of the Fall.” With a full orchestra and lavish costumes, the opera is inspired by the true story of Rosa Ponselle’s journey from vaudeville star to Metropolitan Opera debut at the age of 21 to her later disappearance from the stage.
The March 2-4 spotlight opera is “The Bartered Bride,” a romantic Czech frolic by Bedřich Smetana performed in English with piano accompaniment in the Burg Theatre. The essence of the story is true love overcoming conniving parents and a scheming marriage broker framed against a carnival backdrop including a traveling circus, a courageous heroine, and unpleasant stepmother, along with a dancing bear and nodding donkey. The unexpected circumstances lead to an inevitable happy ending.
The April 20-22 season finale, “On The Town,” spotlights the 100th anniversary of the birth of composer Leonard Bernstein. His classic score features one of the best-known show tunes in Broadway history — “New York, New York,” which provides the soundtrack for three optimistic sailors on 24-hour shore leave in Manhattan. The show inspired the Oscar-winning film of the same name, starring Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra. Featuring book and lyrics by the acclaimed Broadway team of Betty Comden and Adolph Green, the musical will be presented in Kirkpatrick, with full orchestra.
“We are honored to have had audiences support our productions over seven decades,” said Mark Parker, dean of the Bass School of Music. “Alumni who not long ago performed on these stages are starring in venues from Carnegie Hall to the Sydney Opera House, Broadway to Bayreuth, earning Grammys, Emmys, and Tony Awards along the way.”
Among Oklahoma City University’s award-wining alumni are Mason Williams, composer of “Classical Gas”; opera greats Leona Mitchell, Sarah Coburn, Marquita Lister and Robert Watson; and Broadway veterans Kristin Chenoweth, Kelli O’Hara and Ron Raines.
Earlier this year, the Oklahoma Opera and Music Theater Company was honored with three production awards from the National Opera Association. The awards included first place in Division I for the Bass School of Music’s March production of “Jackie O”; “Don Pasquale,” presented in November 2015, was awarded second place in Division III; and “Evita,” presented in April 2016, received third place in Division IV.
For more information on OKCU’s 2017-18 productions, or to purchase tickets ($12-28), visit okcu.edu/tickets or call 405-208-5227.