SHOWS AnD HISTORY

About Us

Since 1949 the Charleston Light Opera Guild has been a leader in providing quality light opera and Broadway musical entertainment for West Virginia while providing an outlet for nurturing the talents of singers, actors, dancers, musicians and behind the scenes volunteers. Leonard Stocker, the moving force in founding the Guild, had come to Charleston in 1948 after fifteen years as a professional singer and actor. A voice teacher at Charleston's Mason College of Music, he was joined by music teachers Margaret Hope Samms, Annie Laurie Leonard and Margaret Palmer in founding the not for profit organization. The initial offering was Gilbert and Sullivan's HMS Pinafore which played to a standing room only audience at the Charleston High School Auditorium. Throughout the 1950s the group continued to produce popular operettas. Stocker, the first artistic director of the group, was succeeded by Lila Belle Brooks. She also led an acclaimed spinoff group, the Guildaires, who performed across West Virginia. By 1955, Tom Murphy was credited for staging Guild productions.

In 1957 the Guild weathered its first financial crisis when a production of Where's Charlie at the Municipal Auditorium failed to attract anticipated crowds. The group decided to reproduce the royalty free HMS Pinafore. Shows were presented at the United Fuel Gas Company Auditorium and played to capacity audiences. With the emergence of the Charleston Civic Center Little Theatre, Tom Murphy, who had become artistic director in 1959, reasoned that it was time for a change. Oklahoma! in 1960 introduced the era of the Broadway musical. By 1964 Doug Martin had become the Guild's director. In the early days the Guild did not have a permanent home and rehearsed in area churches. In 1966 the group purchased an East End Jefferson Street Building that became its workshop where rehearsals were held, costumes were stored and sets were built. In the late 1960s the Guild endured a second crisis when the roof collapsed on the workshop. The board decided to only produce one musical that season. Some 1970 summer offerings at Pipestem Resort State Park under returning director Murphy helped offset bills. With the 1970 production of Showboat at the Civic Center, the Guild was back on its feet. By 1977, and with a production of Shenandoah, the Guild began using volunteer orchestra members.

Summer theatre had been explored as early as 1959 with a production of Trial by Jury at the County Courthouse. In the summer of 1970 Your Own Thing was mounted at Watt Powell Park as an experiment. By 1975 summer theatre became a reality under director Tom Murphy and choreographer Nina Denton Pasinetti. The mission of summer theatre was to give performance and behind the scenes opportunities to older teens and young adults. The first production was Godspell. Summer theatre continued thru the early 90s at the East End Workshop where two musicals were produced each summer.

In 1983 Nina Denton Pasinetti took the reins as artistic director. During the winter of 1986 the group produced The Wiz, the first of several African-American musicals. A summer revival of A Chorus Line was presented at the Culture Center in 1991. With the purchase of the Weekley Memorial Methodist Church in 1995, the Guild took another giant step forward. Using significant portions of its own funds, together with many generous contributions, the group turned the church into a workshop and theatre. The space was inaugurated in 1996 with summer productions of Cinderella and Company. Summer and smaller musicals continue to be produced at the Charleston Light Opera Guild Theatre.

The Guild began its Golden Anniversary year with a production of Stephen Sondheim's Follies. Three of the cast members in that show, Louis Husson, Betty Agsten Hamilton and Shirley Annand, were Guild charter members. Many former performers and volunteers returned for a 3-day anniversary celebration. Following the 1999 Guild Summer Theatre revival of A Chorus Line, Mrs. Alex Schoenbaum began sponsoring Guild summer theatre productions and through a trust she has ensured that summer theatre, especially with youth and dance, continue with a sponsorship by the Alex and Betty Schoenbaum Family Foundation. Other area sponsors have followed, including Ed and Susan Maier, with productions at the Clay Center and Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center (formerly Civic Center).

In the fall of 2003, with a 62 member cast of The Music Man, the Guild became the first community group to mount a production at the new Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences West Virginia. Since 2003 the Clay Center has co-produced numerous musicals with CLOG and school day performances in that venue continue to educate and inspire area students. In the summers of 2002 and 2003 the Guild collaborated with Kanawha Players and Charleston Stage Company to present the Charleston Theatre Festival at the Guild Theatre. Multiple West Virginia theatre companies presented one-acts during the festival. In December 2005 an endowment fund was established in honor of Louis Husson's 80th birthday. In December 2006 Guild members appeared in a concert version of South Pacific at the Greenbrier Resort Hotel with Tony Award winners Lilias White and Brian Stokes Mitchell and Broadway actress Katie Rose Clark in honor of Guild charter member Lawson Hamilton and his wife Jeanne's 60th wedding anniversary.

The Guild has produced a summer musical during FestivALL Charleston since FestivALL's origin in 2005 and has been a headline event since 2009. Director Nina Denton Pasinetti was honored at the Charleston Women's Club in 2008 for her 25th year as Artistic Director. A gala benefit show and reception, hosted by Golden Globe winning actress and Guild alumna Jennifer Garner, was held during the FestivALL 2011 Civic Center production of Thoroughly Modern Millie. The Civil War was presented at the Culture Center Theatre as part of the West Virginia Sesquicentennial Commission's official commemoration of West Virginia in 2013. Guest artists included West Virginia native and professional actor David Selby who appeared as Abraham Lincoln on West Virginia Day and Mountain Stage host Larry Groce as the balladeer. In 2014 the Guild recognized 40 years of continual summer theatre with a reprise of the first summer production, Godspell. Many original cast members were on hand to join the celebration including Grammy Award winning artist and honoree, Kathy Mattea. During the summer of 2016 CLOG celebrated 20 years at the Guild Theatre with performances and refreshments. The event included a tribute to longtime musical director John Marshall.

Following a 2016 strategic planning session led by Dr. Edwin Welch, Guild leaders decided to engage in a $2 million endowment campaign to ensure continuation of the Charleston Light Opera Guild for years to come. The campaign was announced at the Kathy Mattea Guild Benefit Concert held at the Guild Theatre in March 2019. The campaign led by Dr. Dan Foster and Kay Goodwin, with honorary chair Jennifer Garner, was a huge success. The 70th Anniversary was celebrated at the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center with a revival of Oklahoma! A November 23 Gala featured cameo performances by returning cast members Bob Howell, Louis Husson, Gary Brown, Tim Harper, Rebecca Robbins, Dan Mendeloff, Jennifer Singletary and Jeff Hanson, from 3 previous Oklahoma! productions. This was followed by a celebratory dinner and dance enjoyed by Guild enthusiasts. Due to a global pandemic, a revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein's The Sound of Music was the only live musical produced in 2020. A recorded version of Shrek the Musical, originally presented in 2019, was streamed during FestiFALL 2020. The group maintained coronavirus protocols in the summer 2021 and returned live with two revue style musicals in outdoor venues at the Susan Runyan Maier Sculpture Garden at the Clay Center and the Schoenbaum Stage at Haddad Park.

The Guild has produced over 250 musicals and events. More than 14,000 have viewed a show annually. The organization has been honored with a Mayor's Award for the Arts, "Arts to the Max" Award from the Charleston Area Alliance, recognition for Organizational Leadership from the National Endowment for the Arts and 2018 Governor's Arts Award for Organization of the Year. Many working professionals, including Kathy Mattea, Ann Magnuson, Joe Chrest, Rebecca Robbins and Jennifer Garner, honed their skills performing with the Guild. The group continues to entertain, excite and inspire audiences with high caliber community based musical theatre offered at an affordable price. The Charleston Light Opera Guild is the only community arts group in the area devoted exclusively to musical theatre.

Selected Early Show Photos

Show History

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Production

Ring of Fire

Putting It Together

The Sound of Music

Oklahoma!

Shrek: The Musical

Bright Star

42nd Street

Mamma Mia!

Ragtime

The Little Mermaid

The Full Monty

My Fair Lady

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

The Addams Family

Anything Goes

Bridges of Madison County

Sister Act

A Christmas Story

Jesus Christ Superstar

Beauty and the Beast

The Wiz

Spamalot

A Christmas Story

Mary Poppins

Cabaret

La Cage aux Folles

Into the Woods

Miracle on 34th Street

Fiddler on the Roof

The Wedding Singer

Catch Me If You Can

9 to 5: The Musical

Godspell

Les Misérables

Chicago

The Civil War

Evita

Hello, Dolly!

Legally Blonde

Next to Normal

The Color Purple

Annie

Hairspray

Thoroughly Modern Millie

The Drowsy Chaperone

Dreamgirls

Hair

Barnum

Gypsy

Pirates of Penzance

Peter Pan

Rent

Curtains

South Pacific

HMS Pinafore

The Producers

Grease

Pump Boys and Dinettes

A Chorus Line

Cinderella

High School Musical

They're Playing Our Song

Ragtime

Into The Woods

Guys and Dolls

1940's Radio Hour

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

Beauty and the Beast

Anything Goes

I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change

The Wiz

The Sound of Music

Seussical

Little Shop of Horrors

Pippin

The Music Man

Babes In Arms

Smokey Joe's Cafe

1776

Chicago

Footloose

Tintypes

Annie

42nd Street

Fame

The Fantasticks

A Little Night Music

The Gift of the Magi

Fiddler On The Roof

Grease

Kiss Me, Kate

Peter Pan

A Chorus Line

Follies

Man Of La Mancha

Li'l Abner

The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas

Gypsy

The Sound of Music

Pippin

Hello, Dolly!

La Cage Aux Folles

Company

Cinderella

The Will Rogers Follies

Showboat

She Loves Me

Ain't Misbehavin'

Mame

Damn Yankees

The Goodbye Girl

Godspell

Dreamgirls

My Fair Lady

I Do, I Do

Annie

Guys and Dolls

Sugar

Into The Woods

Funny Girl

A Chorus Line

South Pacific

Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

Gypsy

Pump Boys and Dinettes

Oklahoma!

Cabaret

Jerry's Girls

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum

Fiddler On The Roof

Anything Goes

The Robber Bridegroom

Leader Of The Pack

Evita

42nd Street

Little Shop of Horrors

Pippin

The Music Man

Sweet Charity

Grease

Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

Annie Get Your Gun

The Wiz

A Chorus Line

Something's Afoot

Barnum

The Sound of Music

Life After High School

They're Playing Our Song

Guys and Dolls

Company

Annie

Rodgers and Hart

Carousel

Pirates of Penzance

The Apple Tree

Man of La Mancha

Chicago

On a Clear Day

Babes in Arms

The King and I

Grease

Cabaret

Diamond Studs

Unsinkable Molly Brown

Pippin

Side by Side by Sondheim

Li'l Abner

My Fair Lady

Oliver

Fiddler On The Roof

Shenandoah

How to Succeed In Business

Brigadoon

The Music Man

Jacques Brel

Promises, Promises

I Do, I Do

Gypsy

1776

Company

Godspell

Man of La Mancha

Applause

No, No, Nanette

Cabaret

Wildcat

Guys and Dolls

Fiddler on the Roof

Oklahoma!

Your Own Thing

Mame

Showboat

Most Happy Fella

Spoon River Anthology

Little Mary Sunshine

Ten Nights In A Bar Room

Hello, Dolly

West Side Story

Oliver!

South Pacific

Camelot

How To Succeed In Business

Kiss Me, Kate

My Fair Lady

The Music Man

The Sound of Music

Kismet

Damn Yankees

Carousel

Guys and Dolls

Brigadoon

Annie Get Your Gun

The King and I

South Pacific

Oklahoma!

The Firefly

Oh, Kay

Ruddigore

HMS Pinafore

Where's Charley

Countess Maritza

Mikado

Girl Crazy

Roberta

Carousel

No, No, Nanette

New Moon

Patience

Naughty Marietta

Pirates of Penzance

Red Mill

Chocolate Soldier

Mikado

Sweethearts

Gondoliers

HMS Pinafore