The legendary playwright Tom Jones receives our annual award from critic and singer Paul Thompson of Broadway World.com
There are many connections between Light Opera Works and the collaborators who gave the world The Fantasticks, Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt. The most obvious ones spring from their works’ central place in the American musical theater canon, but there is an interesting personal link as well.
Light Opera Works inaugurated its Second Stage in 1998 with a production of The Fantasticks. "When the company was choosing the first show to present on the Second Stage, we determined that it just had to be The Fantasticks says Light Opera Works' General Manager, Bridget McDonough. "It is a show that everybody loves, was the perfect scale for the small space, and had great music and a great story – Light Opera Works' calling card."
Artistic Director Rudy Hogenmiller has an even stronger connection, having toured Japan with the authors in a highly successful production of The Fantasticks, with Tom Jones as the Old Actor, and Harvey Schmidt himself at the piano. And in 2006, when Light Opera Works presented 110 in the Shade on the mainstage at Cahn Auditorium, Rudy's friendship with the authors made for a wonderful preproduction collaboration, enabling Light Opera Works to present the show with newly revised musical numbers by the authors.
On March 21, at our annual spring Gala, we were proud to present our Artistic Excellence Award to Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt. And though Mr. Schmidt's health did not allow him to travel to Chicago, we were privileged to host Mr. Jones and his wife, choreographer Susan Watson.
Using Mr. Jones' appearance and The Fantasticks as a theme, the 2010 Gala was styled “A Fantastick Celebration.” Guests who purchased VIP tickets mingled with Tom Jones at a private Champagne Reception hosted by Robert Douglas Sphatt and James Schneider of Chicago, prior to the main event.
The ever-charming Mike Kotze, Light Opera Works’ business manager, acted as the evening’s master of ceremonies and Paul Giddings led the live auction bidding. Artistic Director Rudy Hogenmiller introduced the musical program “The Leading Ladies of Light Opera Works” with performers Alicia Berneche, Natalie Ford, and Mary Robin Roth, with Linda Slein on piano. During the musical program the singers performed songs highlighting the upcoming 2010 season and concluded with the entire room joining in a verse of “Try to Remember” from The Fantasticks.
We look forward to continued exploration of the Jones and Schmidt canon this fall when Rudy Hogenmiller directs Light Opera Works favorites Larry Adams and Catherine Lord in I Do!, I Do! at the Light Opera Works Second Stage with company music director Roger Bingaman joined by Linda Slein on the duo pianos.
Flowers were provided by Carl Davenport of Davenport Designs and photography by Jennifer Schuman of Horizon Photography. Other sponsors included Binny’s Beverage Depot, Susan Kozak Charitable Fund, On Track Fulfillment, Viking Printing and Marcus Promotions, Inc., and the Four Seasons Hotel, Chicago.