Tales from the Vault: Musicals

Posted on Oct 4th, 2012 in OSF Archives

The inclusion of a musical in the 2001 season has sparked conversations regarding the history of musicals at the Festival. Though it is true that many of our productions have included lots of music—which you will note in Doug’s current exhibit in the side gallery of the Bowmer Theatre—the first true musicals at OSF were initiated by necessity and pure good fortune.

“In 1965, $26,861 was returned to patrons whose reservations could not be filled. Thousands of patrons were turned away…thousands more, hearing of sell-out nights, didn’t even try. Attendance had increased 139% in nine years,” according to the 1966 souvenir program.

For several years, a fifth play by a Shakespeare contemporary, had been a part of the season. By 1965, however, with staff planning for a new theatre to open in 1967, there was less energy to mount an “extra” production for 1966. Thus, the music and dance departments suggested staging The Beggar’s Opera for eight performances at the Varsity Theatre.

This choice served not only to tighten the working relationships of the Green Show performers with that of the acting company, but to resurrect the idea of the Vining Repertory by providing shows in the spring and the fall, when Angus and his students were still around town. Since these musicals would be matinees only, this venture solved some of the box office woes and gave some light at the end of the tunnel for four years until the Angus Bowmer Theatre finally opened in 1970.

Written originally for The Company Call, May 2001, by Kit Leary.

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