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Opera House Theater Company

Inspiring artists and audiences since 1985

In 1983 Broadway actor Lou Criscuolo, was hired to perform in the 125th anniversary show for Thalian Hall.  He fell in love with the beautiful theatre, with the charm of Wilmington, and with Mary James Morgan, who worked at the Hall. They were a great team; Lou brought his many years of Broadway experience and know-how, and Mary James brought her Wilmington connections and marketing skills.  


On March 7, 1985, Lou and Mary James opened their first production, "Cactus Flower", starring Joe Namath and his wife, Deborah Mays. After "Cactus Flower", Opera House Theatre Company received its non-profit status and a grant from the North Carolina State Arts Council. The 1985 Company Manager for Opera House Theatre Company, Catherine Lea, said, “OHTC's 1985 summer season was the first full-scale summer season of theater ever done in Thalian Hall and many advised Lou against doing it. He did it anyway and proved them all wrong! "Fiddler on the Roof",  was followed by "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum", followed by "Arsenic and Old Lace", which debuted Frank Capra, Jr."


And so the tradition started, of bringing in guest professionals to inspire and work alongside local performers.   


OHTC produces two winter and four summer musicals in the regular season and two additional shows for the Apprentice Theatre, totaling sixty five full length shows annually with casts of 30-83 technicians and entertainers ages 7-83.  Through these shows, small paid positions are created for local independent contractors, musicians and technicians affording Wilmington artists an opportunity to perform alongside family, friends and current Broadway, TV & Film professionals.

Over the past three and a half decades thousands of local actors, directors, choreographers, musicians and technicians have developed their craft working among professionals with Opera House Theatre Company.  Several have since followed their passions touring the world, performing with symphonies, dance companies, cruise ships or working behind the scenes on creative crews. Alumni have joined the casts of fifteen Broadway shows and sixteen National tours such as: "Hamilton", "Wicked", "Cats", "Shrek", "Fosse", "Les Miserables”, "Motown the Musical", "Book of Mormon", "Oklahoma", "Monty Python’s Spamalot”, "Wizard of Oz”, "Dirty Dancing”, "Cabaret”, "Sound of Music”, "Grease”,  "A Chorus Line”,  "Footloose”, "The Wedding Singer", "Cinderella",  "Legally Blonde", "Hairspray" and "Back to the Future"; a record any theatre company would be proud of.   


Theatre is continuously changing, and the memories it creates lasts lifetimes. Mary James and Lou will never be forgotten, and Opera House Theatre Company will go on in their honor.


In February 2019, under the leadership of OHTC's new Executive Artistic Director Justin Smith, OHTC's two person show, "Always…. Patsy Cline'', attracted over 3,400 people. By the end of 2019, OHTC broke all ticket sales records, with over 25,000 people attending the 2019 season shows far surpassing any other renter, in the history of Thalian Hall Center of the Performing Arts. OHTC has continued to increase that number each year; currently more than 30,000 have come to see an OHTC Show. We are so appreciative of your continued support of Opera House!


OHTC legacy has been emerging, strengthening and evolving since 1985, because what is legacy, but a gift, we receive from our predecessors. Our legacy from Mary James and Lou, Justin Smith, Jeanne Criscuolo, their families and all of our OHTC friends, is rich, and full of life. Since the beginning of this new creative partnership, we have committed ourselves to enriching and sustaining live theatre and arts education. The OHTC legacy is a phenomenal gift and an awesome responsibility. Your support plays a pivotal role in helping Opera House continue to create live theatre now and for future generations. No matter how many times we say it, it’s always true…we absolutely could not do what we do without you.



Meet the Team

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Ray Kennedy

Interim Artistic Director

"Hark the Herald Angels Swing" was created by Ray over 14 years ago and it continues to be one of OHTC's largest fundraisers, now spanning 3 nights.  Ray has worked with Opera House Theatre Company for over 30 years as a Director and Choreographer on awarded productions such as "Oklahoma!," (Best Musical, Best Director) "Chicago," (Best Musical,) "Hairspray," (Best Musical, Best Choreography) "Kiss Me Kate," (Best Choreography) "Cinderella," (Best Choreography) "A Little Night Music," (Best Musical), "Mama Mia." (Best Ensemble) and "Five Guys Named Moe'' (Best Choreography).   Ray was Director of Entertainment for 22 years on the Palm Beach Princess; has produced and choreographed for Diet Pepsi commercials,  Disney films, "One Tree Hill'' and fashion shows all over the USA for designer SHERRI HILL.  He has appeared on numerous stages and television shows including "Keeping Up With the Kardashians" and as Bobby in the national touring company of "A Chorus Line".   Ray has operated Kennedy Entertainment for over 38 years, 10 of which he also served as Vice President of Programs and Services for the USO of Metropolitan New York where he created "Operation That's My Dress" that serves military families and young ladies all over the United States, giving them an opportunity to choose a brand new designer prom dress, jewelry and beauty products, free of cost.   Ray recently added playwrite to his list of credentials and splits his time with Opera House Theatre Company and touring with his play, "The Thursday Night Bridge Circle", which is based on true events of growing up in LaGrange, North Carolina during desegregation.   He loves Opera House Theater Company and Thalian Hall and thanks all his friends for their never ending support.  

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Coleman Cox

Associate Producer

Coleman Cox holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in both Musical Theatre and Professional Acting from East Carolina University, where she honed her craft and developed a deep appreciation for the performing arts. Her academic journey laid the foundation for a career marked by dedication and creativity. Professionally, she held a sales management position in the spirits industry for several years before stepping into a hospitality role with Live Nation, a global leader in the live events industry. Her time with them at Greenfield Lake Amphitheater and Live Oak Bank Pavilion has undoubtedly enriched her understanding of the logistical intricacies that contribute to the success of any production. Coleman has been in OHTC's productions of Nine, Sunset Boulevard, 1776 & Man of LaMancha. Having been captivated by the Opera House Theatre Company's commitment to artistic excellence, Coleman's aspiration is to contribute to the company's continued success and growth and she is thrilled to be a part of the team. 



Producer & Director of Education

Carson has been working as a performer, choreographer, and teacher for the past 25 years and is hugely passionate about arts education.  She is originally from Wilmington and has a B.A. in Fine Arts from New School University in NYC, after 3 years at UGA and NYU (TischCAP/21).  Favorite credits include Broadway's WICKED (Witch’s Mother/ensemble), as well as the LA/Chicago/Nat’l tour companies, A Chorus Line (Cassie), Spring Awakening (dir/choreo, City Stage), The Prom (dir/choreo, OHTCNewsies (choreo, OHTC - Wilmington Theatre Award), Kinky Boots (choreo, OHTC), Footloose (2x! tour & choreo, OHTC), The Full Monty (Vicki/choreo, City Stage), Elton John’s “Yellow Brick Road” 35th Anniversary Concert, and BCEFA benefits (Gershwin, Neil Simon, and Minskoff, Broadway). TV/Comm: ESPN, One Life to Live, MasterCard, Toy’s R ‘Us, The Today Show.  She has taught at Broadway Dance Center and Dallas Ballet Center, as well as studios all over the southeast, and is currently the first theatre dance teacher on faculty at UNCW in the Theatre Department.  She founded the first dance & theatre program at Hope Hill Elementary in Atlanta and is a past teaching artist and now board member at Dreams of Wilmington.  Carson is the Director of Education for OHTC’s Youth Program, overseeing all classes, workshops, and community outreach. After 9 years in Atlanta, she is happy to be back with her husband, Ryan, and her four children Jake, Lucy, Mae, and Will. @carsonhobbspro



OHTC Music Director

Brian, is a native of Fayetteville, NC. and is a product of homeschooling, North Carolina School of the Arts (high school) and UNC Greensboro. He moved to NYC and immediately started performing and music directing countless cabarets with stars, including Stephanie Mills, Roberta Flack, Tony Terry, Melba Moore, BeBe Winans, Phylicia Rashad, Mario Cantone, Brian McKnight, Ashford & Simpson and Cook, Dixon & Young, Jennifer Holliday, Dionne Warwick.  After making his Broadway debut as a musician in "Chicago", Brian was invited to play other Broadway shows such as: "The Color Purple", "Shuffle Along" and "Violet".  He has toured throughout the US, Japan, Canada, Mexico & Israel with more than 3 Broadway companies - some of which continue to call him today. Over the years, he has worked with countless Broadway stars such as: Anne Reinking, Christy Brinkley, Tracey Lee, Lynn Whitfield, Jared Grimes & Brandy, to name only a few. His music can be heard on many soundtracks & group albums including "Don't Trip On the Glitter". Before relocating to Wilm in 2020, he added Broadway Conductor to his impressive resume. Brian's OHTC debut was in "Pricilla Queen of the Dessert", followed by "La Cage Aux Folles”, ”The Piano Men” and all shows since.  The was featured in 2022 Summer show “Grease” as Teen Angel.  Brian is OHTC’s resident Music Director.

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Jason Aycock

OHTC Company Manager & Apprentice Theatre Coordinator

Jason has been involved in the Wilmington Theatre Community for more than 13 years and has been a part of more than 100 productions as either performer, choreographer, director, or artistic director. He is proud to have been involved with Opera House Theatre Company since 2005.  Jason has been the Youth Theatre Coordinator since 2017, is one of the lead instructors for OHTC's education department and is OHTC's new Building Supervisor and Company Manager.


Kaitlin Baden

Graphic Designer & Director of Social Media Marketing

Kaitlin is a stage, television and film actress who received her undergraduate degrees in Music and Theatre Arts from UNC-Chapel Hill, and then continued on to earn her Master’s degree in K-12 education.  Her graduate work allowed her to teach in Alamance and Orange counties where she realized that she truly had a love for all grades, but particularly elementary school.  Post-degree, she found a home at Myrtle Grove Middle School for 7 years as their chorus/drama teacher, and also as the US coordinator of the Strasbourg-Amities USA “English literacy through theatre” camp in Strasbourg, France.  She fully believes that the arts are an integral part of a well-rounded education and life, and she is so excited to foster the love and appreciation for at hearts in all of our children.  Kaitlin is the Principal of Wilmington School of the Arts and we are honored she splits her time with OHTC where she wears many hats.  Not only does she create beautiful graphic designs, she is an instructor for OHTC’s education department, where she teaches Acting for Film, Audition Technique and Digital Program workshops. 

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Jeanne Criscuolo

Director of Hospitality

When Jeanne met Lou at a cast party in 2003, his first question was, “Are you an actor?” When she responded that she was indeed not an actor, his second question was, “Ya' wanna have lunch?”.  They were married in 2004 and theatre became her life.  Jeanne always loved theatre and had opportunities to enjoy productions in a variety of cities.  In Beaufort, SC she performed with Byrne Miller’s Dance Company and has continued her studies in many cities throughout her travels.  Jeanne’s theatre life with Lou was intense, exciting and extremely rewarding, his legacy to Jeanne is a fabulous theatre family of exceptional people.  As Director of Hospitality, she enjoys meeting supporters and hearing stories of their histories with OHTC.  Jeanne is OHTC's biggest cheerleader, and we are hers too.


Patrick & Lisa Ballantine, Steve & Louise Coggins, Beth Crookham, Ben David, Gil Johnson, Debbie Pfaff, Laura Sterner, Alex & Tracey Torello, Dr Ken & Lena White, Chuck Whitlock and Jenny McKinnon Wright

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