Fifty years ago, a group of 14 local residents met at the Beacon Club to discuss the possibility of establishing a local theater company that would specialize in presenting high-quality musical theater productions.
Headed by local businessman and philanthropist John Kirkpatrick, the group included Thelma Gaylord, Bea Handel, Luther T. Dulaney, Jack Durland, Dow Gumerson, Breene Kerr, Charles Bennett, Hardin Masters, Don Watters, J. Robert Wooten, Mary Ruth Ferguson, Dora Lee Gardner and James A. Bermingham Jr.
Once funding for the new project was in place, Lyric Theatre presented its first season in the summer of 1963, a lineup that included “Oklahoma!,” “Kiss Me, Kate” and “Brigadoon.” For the next 40 years, Lyric staged its productions at Oklahoma City University. The company relocated to the Civic Center Music Hall in 2002.
This summer, Lyric Theatre is preparing to kick off its 50th anniversary season with a lineup that includes a mix of old and new productions, two of which have significant ties to Oklahoma. The season opens with “Tarzan,” followed by “The King and I,” “The Will Rogers Follies” and “Big River.”
During the past half century, Lyric has enjoyed many artistic successes, including capacity houses for “Evita” (1986), “Chicago” (2003) and “Oklahoma!” with Tony nominee Kelli O'Hara (2007). Paula Stover, Lyric's executive director, said that every production of “The Sound of Music,” “Fiddler on the Roof” and “Grease” have also been enormously popular with audiences.
Lyric Theatre has presented 125 productions in its history, 57 of which have received multiple stagings. The most frequently presented shows have been “The Sound of Music” and “The Music Man” with six productions each, followed by “Fiddler on the Roof” with five. Nine other musicals have received four productions each during Lyric's 50 years.
Lyric's 50th anniversary season begins June 25-29 with the company's debut production of “Tarzan.” Lyric is only the third theater that Disney has allowed to produce the Edgar Rice Burroughs tale.