Light opera changes name to reflect more breadth of offerings

The Richland Light Opera Company has decided to change its name to reflect its true nature, which is performing all types of musical theater.

"After a great deal of research, we confirmed that the companies that began as Light Opera changed their name to reflect what they actually do, which is musical theater," said Jo Brodzinski, an RLOC spokeswoman.

"We found this to be true in Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco and Pittsburgh. Thus we will become Mid-Columbia Musical Theatre."

But that's not the only change the theater company is planning.

"We are starting a new campaign with lots of changes," Brodzinski added. "We're moving to a season ticket series, adding a Christmas show, doing a major fundraiser in May, all in addition to our two shows (a year)."

The company hopes to target a younger audience with the changes and has plans to promote itself at area movie houses and Americans hockey games, she said.

"We want to bring to this century a new look, a new presence, both telling folks what we actually do, as well as produce first-rate musical theater productions," Brodzinski said.

The company's new season includes The Wedding Singer in November and Camelot in March. Tentative date for the Christmas show is Dec. 20 and will include holiday music Broadway-style, including music from Mame, Rent, White Christmas and Babes in Toyland.

"Our new logo still has RLOC at the bottom as we transition this year," she said. "Our intent is to drop if off by next year."

The company was organized in 1948 with its first production, The Mikado, had two performances the following year. It wasn't until 1952 that members of the troupe dug into their own pockets to produce its first royalty show, The Red Mill, for a few hundred dollars. Today, the cost to put on a show can be in excess of $45,000, Brodzinski said.

A full orchestra was added to the company's shows in the 1960s. Those productions also were stretched to include two weekends.

In 1972, Battelle donated matching dollars to the company so it could build a warehouse in West Richland for its sets and other theater-related storage.

Since those early days, the company has produced more than 90 operas and musicals, each show averaging about 25 to 50 performers and 10 to 20 musicians. And all of them are volunteers.

Anyone interested in becoming a member of the troupe or who would like to donate to the theater company should call Mary Lou Gnoza at 943-9035.