Within reach If I was to say the word 'Cooperstown', most would immediately think of the Baseball Hall of Fame. That’s cool, until recently, I would have said the same thing – but I’ll bet that a few of you would say the word 'Glimmerglass', the word James Fenimore Cooper called Otsego Lake in his Leatherstocking Tales.

Cooperstown, named after the author, is the capital city of nowhere (referring to a lack of cell service), requiring hours of travel to get there from anywhere – yet the streets are full of vacationers and baseball fanatics. But there is something else here, something world class and exciting to music lovers, the Glimmerglass Festival.

To those of us that love live theater – particularly musicals and opera, Cooperstown is a Mecca where new talents and seasoned professionals come together to create astonishingly engaging performances.To those of us that love live theater – particularly musicals and opera, Cooperstown is a Mecca where new talents and seasoned professionals come together to create astonishingly engaging performances.


The 914 seat Alice Busch theater, built in 1987 is singularly impressive.

First, believe it or not, there is no air conditioning or sound amplification. The performances are presented with pure acting skill and lung power, and the cooling is a uniquely created set of doors that open on each side of the theater to let the air flow through before the show and again to cool you down at Intermission. During the show, air still moves through carefully designed louvers in the doors. In all, very comfortable. Before the show or during the 25 minute Intermission, visit the café and gift shop. Don't worry about missing the second act – a bell ringer will give you a five-minute warning.

This past weekend we attended a performance of Rogers and Hammerstein's 'Oklahoma'. I've seen the show several times over the years and the story pulls you in no matter who performs it – but with the first sound from the orchestra I knew I was in for a very special experience.

Directed by a very energetic and enthusiastic conductor, James Lowe, the music was full and perfect. Lowe's credits include 'Les Miserables' on Broadway, Sweeney Todd at the San Francisco Opera, and many more productions worldwide.

The sets, costumes and details were singularly impressive – hats, hairpieces, boots, holsters and more, all created or modified by the skilled hands in the crafts shop, adding to the polish of the show. The powerful baritone Jarrett Ott as Curly began the show in the aisle, filling the theater with his 'Oh, What a Beautiful Morning', and it just got better from there.

After the show, there was a question and answer session at the front of the theater where the performers and directors met patrons, and gave those interested some insight into the world of theater – and some of the challenges they faced to attain their success.


'Oklahoma' is one of four major shows being performed at the Glimmerglass Festival this year, 'Porgy and Bess', 'Xerces' and the 'Siege of Calais' topping the list. Three other shows, the world premiere of 'Stomping Grounds', the opera 'Scalia/Ginsburg' (That one I want to see…) and a production for the kids, 'Robin Hood' round out the season. But wait, there's more!

A series of single day presentations are scheduled through the summer from vocal performances to history and even legal thoughts on how the subjects of the performances resonate with today's world.

The Glimmerglass Festival is, in many cases, the jumping off place for new talent in both performance and design, drawing the best and brightest artists from all over the country. With the Glimmerglass Festival on your theater resume, doors of opportunity open that otherwise would remain securely locked.


The festival runs through August and is well worth the two hour trip from Lansing. Tickets start at $26 and run to well over $100. We sat in the left Orchestra, and seats were $94 each. The good news is that there is not a bad seat in the house.

My suggestion to you is to make it a trip and stay at one of the numerous lodgings in Cooperstown which run from basic to palatial. Downtown Cooperstown looks almost like a set Disney would have created – almost too perfect and homey – but comfortable and inviting. Have lunch at 'Mel's at 22', 22 Chestnut St downtown. Their burgers are scrumptious (from personal experience) and there are several tasty vegan choices as well. Prices are very reasonable. Three of us dined for under $50.

And explore Cooperstown before the show. Enjoy a delightful corner of America. 
There's more than baseball in Cooperstown.

'Within Reach' highlights the food, wine and fun of places 'within Reach' of Lansing NY.  Of course, your reach extends exactly as far as you want it to. I am Monroe Payne, Uncle Monte to some. Come with me as I visit, taste and play in our own back yard, the beautiful Finger Lakes of Central New York.