Ohio Theatre main stage nearing opening; new show premiers Thursday

LIMA —There is only one more show at the Ohio Theatre before the main stage and auditorium will be ready for a full audience.

But “Lee Harvey and the Oswalds”, a musical comedy conceived by theatre owners Joe Correll and Michael Bouson, should be perfect for that task to be carried out at the Stage Door Canteen cabaret section of the venue.

“It’s super funny and the music is amazing,” Bouson, who is playing the lead role of Lee Harvey, said. “All of the actors are also musicians so we have assembled a super talented group of folks.”

Among the cast are three area high school students, Davyon Williamson, William Dappert and Noelle Warnement, who hold the parts of the children of the Oswalds amateur garage band. Laura Wells Parent will play the second lead role of Mrs. Oswald, Stacee Brown will play a Canadian exchange student and Dan Gutman, a pastor at Zion Lutheran Church, will play a reverend.

“Lee Harvey is a role that I played 30-some years ago in Nashville, so it’s been interesting to revisit it 30 years later, but we’re having a lot of fun,” Bouson said of the character who is “stuck in the 60s” and joins the Oswalds to take the act on tour. “And Joe and I found two of our castmembers (Williamson and Warnement) from doing an artists’ residency with Lima City Schools and they are so great that they are holding their own against the adults. Laura is just delightful to work with and super professional. Stacee was a surprise to us but has been fantastic. And Dan is incredible and has the voice of an angel. William, who comes from Ada High School, was recommended by Dan and it is his first professional show, but he found his groove and hasn’t looked back.”

Bouson said that the show is a combination of Saturday Night Live and Mel Brooks.

“You can come in and turn your brain off and kick into entertainment mode, letting the show wash over you,” he said. “It’s very interactive with the audience because we address them directly and involve them a couple of times throughout the show, breaking the fourth wall. We’re always present in the show with the audience because even though we’re actors portraying other characters, those characters are performing for this audience. Anybody who saw our Christmas show (“Seasoned Greetings”) knows that we like to do that and yet, there are still a few surprises that I’ll keep secret for now.”

For now, staff at the theatre are hard at work restoring the main stage area at the same time as they prepare for the show, which premieres Thursday, April 13, plastering and painting walls and repairing damage to emergency exits, but the audience in “Lee Harvey” will still get the full dinner theatre experience complete with the menu that it has become known for.

“After nearly two and three-quarters of a year of nonstop work on the building, it’s great to see that we’re nearing a stopping point,” Bouson said. “But this project will probably take 10 years to completely finish as it’s a very large space. But from an audience member’s perspective, what they see is going to start to feel completely done pretty soon and that’s exciting and rewarding.”

While there are only 52 seats available in the cabaret section of the theatre, 270 seats will fill the main stage section enabling everything from larger shows and outside entertainment such as concerts.

But that will be plenty for what should be a preview of things to come to the theatre with “Lee Harvey”.

And Bouson credits all the volunteer work that has gone into making it possible.

“We’ve worked very hard and we’ve had a lot of community members volunteer to help us and a lot of professionals who’ve worked above and beyond because of their interest in preserving the theatre,” he said. “To see it all kind of come together and be able to look out there and not want to throw up makes me very happy in my heart.”

Opportunities will continue to be available for anyone interested in acting or being part of a crew, as well. Volunteer opportunities and updates are posted frequently to the Ohio Theatre Facebook page and website as well as the Avant Garage page, which is the home of Bouson and Correll’s troupe.

Tickets for “Lee Harvey and the Oswalds” are on sale now for April 13-15, 20-21 and 27-28 at the theatre website.

Reach Jacob Espinosa at 567-242-0399.