Bittersweet: HCLO Faces Possible Final Curtain

As Hattiesburg Civic Light Opera celebrates its two Best of the Pine Belt nominations for Hedwig and the Angry Inch and prepares to launch the final two shows of its forty-second season, The Who’s Tommy and Evita, the venerable Hattiesburg institution also faces the harsh reality that is afflicting arts organizations across the country. “Unless something changes very quickly, next season, HCLO’s 43rd, will be our last,” said Lindsay Williams, HCLO President.

“The fact is almost no theatre company can be supported by ticket sales alone. HCLO is no exception. It takes a good deal of money to put up 3-5 shows, almost always musicals, every year. The financial support in our community is not enough to keep us afloat anymore.” Hattiesburg native and HCLO Board member, Miles Doleac said, “HCLO, which effectively gave me my start as an actor, has meant so much to me and I know it means something to our city, but a handful of volunteer board members, have effectively put the organization on their backs—at times even financially—these last years and willed these shows to happen. That’s just not sustainable over a long period of time. It’s been worth every hour I’ve spent, believe me, and when I see our community’s response to a show like Hedwig or Cabaret, I know we’re doing something right, but, like so much in life, it comes down to money. And there’s just not enough of it.”

HCLO will announce its 43rd and final season in the coming weeks. It will include four show offerings. Williams and Doleac are both excited about what’s in store. “We absolutely plan to go out with a bang,” said Williams. “We intend for this next string of shows to be our very, very best.”

Tommy, boasting classic Who tunes “Pinball Wizard” and “Amazing Journey,” runs March 1, 2, 4, 8, 9,& 10 at downtown’s Thirsty Hippo, a venue that has become a second home to HCLO during the last three seasons. “The Hippo continues to prove a fantastic performance venue,” says Tommy director Joseph VanZandt. “Tommy is a rock show. It’s The Who, after all, and the Hippo is a rock venue. It’s the perfect spot,”

Doleac plays Tommy’s dad, ‘Captain Walker’ with Landon Morrow as ‘The Narrator/Tommy,’ Mady McNemar as ‘Mrs. Walker,’ Brandon Hayes as ‘Uncle Ernie,’ John Michael Ridgeway as ‘Cousin Kevin,’ Kathern Leanne Glydewell as ‘Sally Simpson,’ and Hattiesburlesque co-founder Abigail Lenz Allen as ‘The Acid Queen.’ Ensemble members are Sara Hale, Gage Hensarling, Wesley Hodges, Ryan Kelly, Nolan Lee, Trinity Lowe, Petch Lucas, Martina Sciolino, Teagan Sims, Jacinth Thomas and Jordan West. Michael Miles returns for his fifth stint as HCLO musical director. Tickets are on sale now at HCLO.org. As Tommy closes, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Evita will begin rehearsals in preparation for a May 3-6 run at the Saenger. 

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