It all started at Ron Milton’s kitchen table.
The actor, director and theater instructor was at a crossroads in life, pondering his next steps. Should he go traveling, pursue another project, or stay on Bainbridge Island and do something new?
He opted for the latter.
Ovation, an island musical theater company, started with that decision. Milton, his wife, and other musical enthusiasts banded together to begin the company’s first production, “The Pirates of Penzance.”
Now, Ovation is celebrating its 9-year anniversary and the group is returning to the show that kicked things off.
Ovation’s performance of the Gilbert and Sullivan classic will continue for two more weekends in the Bainbridge High School theater.
It opened its first performance on June 23 the same way it opened in 2002: with a sold-out show.
Some things have changed since the first performance a decade ago.
“We had almost no equipment,” Milton said. “I painted all the different scenes. We stuck them over in the corner of the stage and that was our set.”
Despite the minimalism on stage, the 2002 show proved to be a success.
“It was sensational, we sold the floor every single performance,” Milton said. “Nobody had ever done a show like that around here.”
The success of the initial performance of Pirates of Penzance provided Ovation the start it needed.
“It gave us the resources to start doing more and more shows,” he added. “Before you know it, it’s 10 years later and we’ve been doing shows the whole time.”
Ovation hasn’t just been keeping busy with musical performances. The enterprise also has a glee academy for junior high and high school students.
And this summer, the musical group will start an adult glee club, which is already nearly full. And a children’s glee club, now full.
They also have Vocé, an all-girls show choir.
It’s important for Milton to keep musical theater alive on the island. He said such shows are not commonly seen off Broadway, partially because musicals are more expensive to produce.
Whether it’s glee or a full-stage extravaganza, Milton believes that musical theater provides a unique experience that can only happen on stage. In fact, he feels so strongly about it that he doesn’t allow any filming of the performances. Audiences have to attend to truly know what the buzz is all about.
“It doesn’t happen anywhere else,” he said. “Not in film or TV, only in a live production.”
The excitement is only heightened by the fact that the community theater Milton puts on carries the passion of your neighbors.
“These people, they all go to school, or work full-time jobs and then they get together and work for three months to create art,” Milton said. “It is from heart and soul.”