Professional music theater since 1981

MUSIC THEATER WORKS (formerly LIGHT OPERA WORKS) is a resident professional not-for-profit music theater in Evanston, Illinois, founded in 1980. The mission is to

  • Produce and present various forms of musical theater from a variety of world traditions
  • Engage the community through outreach and educational programs
  • Train artists in musical theater.

The company has presented more than 100 productions on its 1,000-seat Mainstage, and many intimate productions and concert performances on its Second Stage venues.

All productions are in English, with foreign works presented in carefully edited modern translations. Maximum scholarship is employed to preserve the original vocal and orchestral material, as well as the spirit of the original text whenever possible. All Mainstage productions feature a full orchestra with the original orchestrations.

Audiences know that at MUSIC THEATER WORKS they will experience musical theater, which is often unavailable on the stages of commercial theaters and opera houses, in beautiful, colorful modern productions with professional artists and full orchestra.

Representative repertoire includes:

European operettas
Works by Léhar, Kálmán, Offenbach, Gilbert and Sullivan, Johann Strauss, Jr. and Oscar Straus, including The Merry Widow, Countess Maritza, La Belle Hélène, The Mikado, Die Fledermaus and The Chocolate Soldier.

American operettas
By Romberg, Friml and Herbert, such as The Student Prince, Rose-Marie and Sweethearts.

Classic American musicals
From Rodgers and Hammerstein, Lerner and Loewe, Jerry Herman, Irving Berlin and Cole Porter, including South Pacific, My Fair Lady, Kiss Me, Kate, Hello, Dolly! and Annie Get Your Gun.

Contemporary works
Ragtime, A Little Night Music, Soup du Jour, No Way to Treat a Lady, C’est la vie, The Secret Garden and others.

Tintypes, Side by Side by Sondheim, Berlin to Broadway with Kurt Weill and others.

“Greatest Hits” Concerts
Hollywood, Operetta, Jule Syne, Gershwin, Cole Porter.

Rarely performed pieces
Including Knickerbocker Holiday, Utopia Limited, Carnival!, One Touch of Venus, Wonderful Town and Babes in Toyland.

Crossover works
Including Kismet, Candide, The Golden Apple and Lady in the Dark.

Visit Past Shows for complete repertory, photos and cast lists.

Notable productions

2015 – Chicago premiere of expanded full-orchestra production of The Fantasticks.

2005, 2014 – New English translation of Lehár’s The Merry Widow by Jack Helbig and Gregg Opelka.

2005 – Staged revival of Darling of the Day.

2004 – American premiere of the English National Theatre’s version of Bernstein’s Candide.

2003 – First English translation of Offenbach’s The Island of Tulipitan.

1998 – First English translation of Kálmán’s The Duchess of Chicago.

1995 – Full staged revival of the rarely performed The Golden Apple.

1993 – Chicago premiere of Houston Grand Opera’s revised version of Herbert’s Babes in Toyland, starring Ray Rayner.

1989 – First production of Weill’s reconstructed Lady in the Dark.

Awards and recognition
  • General Manager Bridget McDonough recipient of 2009 Public Service/Nonprofit Award from Evanston Chamber of Commerce.
  • Artists continually recognized by critics for outstanding performances:

Justin Adair (Lt. Cable in South Pacific and Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls)
One of Chicago Tribune’s “Hot New Faces of 2015.”


James Harms (Don Quixote in Man of La Mancha)
One of the “10 best performances of 2012” by Chicago Tribune.


Nick Sandys (Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady)
“Best Actor 2011” by Chicago Magazine.


Natalie Ford (Julie Jordan in Carousel)
One of the “10 best performances of 2010” by Chicago Tribune.


Larry Adams (Fredrick in A Little Night Music and other shows)
“Best Singer of 2010” by Chicago Magazine.


Megan Long (Petra in A Little Night Music)
One of Chicago Tribune’s “Hot New Faces of 2009.”

  • Mame named one of the Top 10 Shows of 2016 by Chicago Theater and Arts.
  • Exchanges and collaborations with international companies and artists from Russia, Hungary and China.
  • Repeatedly named to “10 Best” and “Best of the Year” lists by Chicago media.
  • Recipient of 2002 Evanston Mayor’s Award for the Arts.

Community involvement

An active participant in the Chicago arts community, MUSIC THEATER WORKS is a member of the Arts Alliance Illinois, League of Chicago Theatres, North Shore Convention and Visitors’ Bureau, Evanston Chamber of Commerce, Wilmette/Kenilworth Chamber of Commerce and National Alliance for Musical Theatre.

MUSIC THEATER WORKS has collaborated on artistic and educational projects with the Union League Club, Boys and Girls Club, Chicago Theatre Company, Pegasus Players, Evanston District 65 schools, Theatre Building Chicago and other organizations.

The company also presents concerts and outreach programs at schools, hospitals, nursing homes, civic organizations, festivals and other community events.

History photo 1

History photo 2

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