Who knew, two years ago, when a group sparked by local media mover, Chad Stearns, decided to bring a big-time musical to the big stage at Lima’s VMCCC, that it would lead , not to that musical, but another even more well known?
Stearns, an Ohio native, with roots at Bluffton University, had moved here in 2000 to teach music at Waynesfield-Goshen High School. After three years he took his talents to New York, where he toured with four Broadway companies, including “Hairspray” and “Avenue Q”. He then decided to come back to Northwest Ohio, landing in Lima with his own business, Modo Media.
It had always been Stearns’ dream to mount a full-scale version of a big Broadway musical here, on the huge stage at the Convention Center. It was his observation that talent existed in this centrally located community which embraces a wide Northwest Ohio “vortex”. Enough talent, to swing a demanding musical such as “Ragtime”. He quickly found others to rally to his cause, and got the Civic Center to allow his group to stage a workshop of the first half of the play, as encouragement for those people that might be willing to fund the full version. The workshop starred many big names in local theatre and was a success, both in raising money and the go-ahead to make the real thing happen.
The by-product of the workshop, was a new partnership, excited to make professsional-quality theatre happen. Octopus Productions, a non-profit formed for the purpose of bringing this kind of production to Lima and surroundings, was born. The principals, Stearns, Deb Duncan-Faul, Shannon Wannemacher, and Jim and Chris O’Neil began making plans. It was not long before they had agreed to stage the timeless classic, “Cabaret”.
Cabaret is the story of a frustrated American writer, Cliff Bradshaw, who moves to pre-WWII Berlin to gain perspective. He quickly meets Brit Nightclub dancer, Sally Bowles. The two fall in love, which creates difficulties for the goals and aims of each. The undercurrent of the story, is the growing shadow of the coming Nazi takeover. Religious persecution, the precursor to the holocaust, affects all the characters in some way.
Stearns says he especially wanted this show, because while it certainly entertains, it has something to say about the human condition. It’s entertainment, with a message. The group, got the idea to try to resurrect live productions at Lima’s downtown stage landmark, The Ohio Theatre. It had been many years since “Ohio” had seen a stage play, having been uses as a movie house, a concert venue, and a nightclub.
New owners of the Ohio Theatre, Kelly and Mike Saddler agreed to make the attempt, and the group brought on a local legend to direct, Geeorge Dunster. Dunster has been one of the premier actors as well as a legendary director. Local glass artist, Tom Cullen was willing to allow the rehearsals at his building on South Main St., a structure he had purchased with this kind of adventure in mind. He also agreed to use his considerable building skills to erect the set. Liz Leis from Nitza’s, also downtown, is undertaking the monumental task of costuming the show.
Soon, Director Dunster, his Assistant, Deb Faul, Choregrapher Karin Dorsey, and, of course, Musical Director Stearns, held professional-style auditions for the show, picking a strong cast. The cast is now in production. The historic return of live theatre to the Ohio, is something which has excited all involved. The performance dates are June 23, 24, 25. Tables of eight, or individual seats may be purchased, and are presently selling fast. To reserve your seats go to www.cabaretinlima.com or call Christine (419) 236-1389.