In June of 1937, a group of six enthusiastic people met to discuss the possibility of forming a club to perform the operettas of Gilbert & Sullivan. By September, these six had doubled, and by the end of October 1937, had grown to 100 interested thespians. These 100 passionate devotees to the stage organized themselves that autumn and founded the Worcester County Light Opera Club. Mr. Leslie Moore, who was then the chief editorial writer for the Evening Gazette, was the first elected president. In 1937, WCLOC initially got its feet wet with a modest production of The Pirates of Penzance. However, it was on February 3rd, 1938, at Tuckerman Hall that the first major production of WCLOC premiered. The production was the joint presentation of Trial by Jury and HMS Pinafore, and it played to packed houses over two nights. In 1939, after its second triumphant year of Gilbert and Sullivan productions, WCLOC received state approval for incorporation.
After many years of utilizing various performance venues throughout the city, it was in 1948 that WCLOC acquired its permanent home at 21 Grandview Avenue, Worcester. This acquisition has been a major contributor to WCLOC’s longevity. The “Clubhouse” not only continues to serve as an intimate and flexible “black box” theatre to hold its 3 in-house productions, but it also boasts residence to WCLOC’s auditions, rehearsals, workshops, and meetings, not to mention scene shop & storage facility where WCLOC’s stunning scenery, props, and costumes are created and housed.
The 1950’s, 1960’s, and 1970’s
Due to the diminishing appeal for light opera in the mid 1950’s, and the growing popularity of the musical theater genre, WCLOC adapted to the ever-changing times by producing its first “Broadway-Style” musical in 1956. The production was No No Nanette, and due to its overwhelming success, WCLOC decided to shift its focus from light opera to its rapidly transforming next of kin, musical theater. As a medium to discover and nurture promising local talent, theatrical workshops for the adult population were held at the “Clubhouse” in the late 1950’s and continued through the 1960’s. Well received, these workshops were expanded to include children in the early 1970’s, and have been proven to be one of WCLOC’s most successful endeavors. Scholarships to gifted students (as stipulated in the original by-laws) continue to be awarded annually.
The Year 2000 and Beyond
In addition to the summer musical theater workshops for children, WCLOC also has four in-house productions at the “Clubhouse”, WCLOC rounds out the annual theatrical season by producing a “Broadway-Style” musical.
From comedy to tragedy, classical to contemporary, musical to non-musical, WCLOC produces a wide array of theatrical works today. WCLOC has also been privileged to produce new plays written by local playwrights, giving talented Worcester County residents the opportunity of having their local works produced, showcased, and critiqued. Although the Worcester County Light Opera Club has exceeded the boundaries of its light opera roots, it continues to produce dramatic and musical works of only the highest caliber, while maintaining the impressive legacy of discovering and developing the brightest talent in the collaborative art of theater.