Music Theater Works (formerly Light Opera Works) is a resident professional not-for-profit musical theatre company in Evanston, Illinois. It was founded in 1980 by Philip Kraus, Bridget McDonough, and Ellen Dubinsky.
Music Theater Works has presented over 75 productions of operetta and musical theatre at Northwestern University's 1,000-seat Cahn Auditorium. Since 1998, in addition to its three annual productions in this theatre, Music Theater Works also produces a fourth, more intimate show, in the 450 seat Nichols Concert Hall. The company performs all of its productions in English with orchestra.
Kraus was the first Artistic Director of the company, serving from 1981 through 1999. The first production of the company occurred in 1981 with a staging of Gilbert and Sullivan's H.M.S. Pinafore. Under Kraus' leadership, the company's main emphasis in programming centered on American, French and Viennese operetta, and Gilbert and Sullivan's Savoy operas.
Lara Teeter succeeded Kraus and served as Artistic Director until 2004. He continued to program operettas but added more musical theatre pieces from later in the 20th century. Rudy Hogenmiller took over in 2005 and continued that trend. In 2017, the company changed its name from Light Opera Works to Music Theater Works. In 2019, Hogenmiller and founding General Manager Bridget McDonough retired, to be replaced by Kyle Dougan as Producing Artistic Director.
In its early years, the company staged all twelve of the full-length extant Gilbert and Sullivan operas, including an Elizabethan concept Mikado (1986) and an Edward Gorey/Tim Burton-inspired Ruddigore (1996), as well as the less frequently produced Utopia Limited (1984) and The Grand Duke (1992).
The company has produced a number of Chicago premieres, including Emmerich Kálmán's The Duchess of Chicago (1998), Jerome Moross' The Golden Apple (1995), and Karl Millöcker's The Beggar Student, as well as revivals such as Oscar Straus' The Chocolate Soldier (1987) and A Waltz Dream (1992) (both with translations by Kraus and lyricist Gregory Opelka), Victor Herbert's Babes in Toyland (1994) and The Red Mill (1992), and Leonard Bernstein's Wonderful Town (1996). The company embarked on a Kurt Weill cycle in 1989 beginning with Lady in the Dark (1990), and including One Touch of Venus (1997) and Knickerbocker Holiday (1993).
In 1998, in addition to its three annual shows in the Cahn Auditorium, Light Opera Works also began to produce a fourth, more intimate show each year in the 250-seat Second Stage or at Nichols Concert Hall. These have included classic operettas like Jacques Offenbach's The Isle of Tulipitan, new works such as Soup du Jour and No Way to Treat a Lady, revues like Side by Side by Sondheim, and revivals such as Darling of the Day.
- List of productions
- 2010: The Yeoman of the Guard; Carousel; I Do! I Do!; Hello Dolly
- 2009: A Little Night Music My Fair Lady; C'est la vie (Second Stage); The Pirates of Penzance
- 2008: Gigi; Iolanthe; Side by Side by Sondheim (Second Stage); The Music Man
- 2007: Kiss Me, Kate; Bitter Sweet; Berlin to Broadway with Kurt Weill (Second Stage); Oklahoma!
- 2006: South Pacific; 110 in the Shade; Ben Bagley's The Decline and Fall of the Entire World as Seen Through the Eyes of Cole Porter (Second Stage); The Mikado
- 2005: Carnival!; The Merry Widow; Darling of the Day (Second Stage); The Sound of Music
- 2004: Sweethearts; Candide; No Way to Treat a Lady - Douglas J. Cohen (Second Stage); H.M.S. Pinafore
- 2003: Ragtime; Fiddler on the Roof; My Night at Jacques - Jacques Offenbach (Second Stage); Die Fledermaus
- 2002: Gypsy Love - Franz Lehár; Camelot; Soup du Jour - Opelka, Mueller and Boland (Second Stage); The Pirates of Penzance
- 2001: Countess Maritza; Kismet; You Never Know (Second Stage); The Student Prince
- 2000: The Gondoliers; Man of La Mancha; Tintypes (Second Stage); The Great Waltz
- 1999: Beautiful Helen of Troy (La Belle Hélène); Rose-Marie; She Loves Me (Second Stage); The Mikado
- 1998: The Yeomen of the Guard; The Duchess of Chicago; The Fantasticks (Second Stage); The Desert Song
- 1997: H.M.S. Pinafore; One Touch of Venus; The Merry Widow
- 1996: The Chocolate Soldier; Ruddigore; Wonderful Town
- 1995: The Pirates of Penzance; The Golden Apple; Die Fledermaus
- 1994: A Night in Venice; The Student Prince; The Most Happy Fella
- 1993: The Count of Luxembourg; Iolanthe; Babes in Toyland
- 1992: A Waltz Dream; The Grand Duke; Knickerbocker Holiday
- 1991: Bitter Sweet; The Beggar Student; The Red Mill
- 1990: The Gypsy Princess; Princess Ida; The New Moon
- 1989: Vienna Life (Wiener Blut); Patience; Lady in the Dark
- 1988: The Land of Smiles; La Périchole; The Desert Song
- 1987: The Sorcerer; The Chocolate Soldier; Rose-Marie
- 1986: The Mikado; The Grand Duchess of Gerolstein; Die Fledermaus
- 1985: The Gondoliers; The Gypsy Baron; The Student Prince
- 1984: La Vie parisienne; The Merry Widow; Utopia, Limited
- 1983: The Pirates of Penzance; A Little Night Music; Naughty Marietta
- 1982: The Beautiful Galatea (Die schöne Galathee); Gianni Schicchi; Candide
- 1981: H.M.S. Pinafore; Orpheus in the Underworld
Music Theater Works is a member of the League of Chicago Theatres and a founding member of Chicago Performances. The company has collaborated on artistic and educational projects with the Union League Club, Boys and Girls Club, Evanston District 65 schools, Theatre Building Chicago, and other organizations.
- Scher, Valerie. "Pinafore: A Spirited, Romantic Delight", Chicago Sun-Times, September 11, 1981, p. 63; and Gerst, Virginia. "Kraus makes light work of opera", Pioneer Press, August 19, 1982, p. D2
- Miller, Bryan. "Music Notes: the opera company that gets no respect", The Reader, May 26, 1989, Section 1, p. 6
- Süllwold, Carla-Maria Verdino. "Second City Opera: Contending for First Place", Opera Monthly, February 1992, Vol. 4, No. 10, pp. 21–30
- Greene, Morgan. "Light Opera Works changes name", Chicago Tribune, April 17, 2016
- "Music Theater Works Announces 2020 Season Under Incoming Producing Artistic Director Kyle A. Dougan", BroadwayWorld.com, October 4, 2019, accessed May 15, 2020
- Delacoma, Wynne. "Opera Works offers British Mikado", Chicago Sun-Times, June 20, 1986, p. 20
- Bommer, Lawrence . Ruddigore review in Windy City Times, August 22, 1996, p. 32
- Grossman, Ron. "Gilbert & Sullivan fans find Utopia", Chicago Tribune, December 28, 1984, Section 7, p. 3
- Mauro, Lucia. The Duchess of Chicago review in the Chicago Sun-Times, August 1998
- Williams, Albert. "Homer on the Range", The Reader, August 25, 1995, Section 1, p. 36
- Süllwold, Carla-Maria Verdino. "Second City Opera: Contending for First Place", in Opera Monthly February 1992, Vol. 4 No. 10, p. 26
- Reich, Howard. "The Chocolate Soldier makes sweet bit of history", Chicago Tribune, August 30, 1987, Section 5, p. 6
- Tobin, Kathleen. A Waltz Dream, The Beverly Review, July 15, 1992
- "Toyland: A Special Place for Young and Old", Chicago Sun Times, December 27, 1993, p. 23
- Sinozich, Patrick. The Red Mill review in Gay Chicago Magazine, January 23–February 2, 1992, p. 36
- Lynch, Liz. Wonderful Town review in Chicago Sun-Times, December 30, 1996, p. 27
- Weiss, Suzanne. "Light Opera Works Lights Ten Candles", Pioneer Press, June 14, 1990, p. D2
- Patner, Andrew. One Touch of Venus review in Chicago Sun-Times, August 19, 1997, p. 32
- Knickerbocker Holiday reviewed in Gay Chicago Magazine, January 14–24, 1993, pp. 35-36
- List of League of Chicago Theatres members Archived 2008-09-17 at the Wayback Machine
- List of members of Chicago Performances[permanent dead link]
- Von Rhein, John. "Lighten up, critics" Chicago Tribune 1990, 10th Anniversary article
- Whitmore, Julie. "Light opera company brings Europe to Evanston" in Crain's Chicago Business, June 20, 1988, p. 27