The History of the Candlelight Theatre
The Candlelight Theatre has lived many lives.
Our beloved venue began as the Harvey Barn, transforming into The Robin Hood Theatre in the 1930s, and operating as a summer stock theater until the mid-1960s.
The Candlelight Music Dinner Theatre, the first of its kind in Delaware, opened in 1969 with a delicious meal and production of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.
We’ve also undergone other name changes in modern times: New Candlelight Theatre (2004); The Candlelight Theatre (2014).
There have been three previous sets of owners during the years we have been known as Candlelight: Julian Borris and John O’Toole until 2000, Kathleen Nadolny and Ennio diGenova until 2003, and Bob and Jody Anderson Miller until 2010. A 501c3 was formed in 2006—New Candlelight Productions—for the production side of the house, and the Millers turned over the remainder of the facility operation to the non-profit four years later.
With five to six shows a year since 1969 (the year Candlelight’s founders attempted TEN shows in its first year), we have had the privilege of nurturing the talents of many artists, including Tony Award-winner Susan Stroman, film star Bruce Willis, Broadway musical star Diane Fratantoni, Tony Award-nominee John Dossett and many others.
In addition to a huge repertoire of musicals, plays (about once a year…comedies are a favorite), and a number of revues—we are approaching the 300 show mark, not counting summer camp!—in recent years we’ve also offered stand-up comedy and Quizzo nights, with concerts, guest productions and master classes happening between stagings. Our youth programming continues a longstanding tradition of summer camp for kids, in which we put on two productions annually.
Over the years, the building has seen vast and innumerable improvements from our days as a barn. We have implemented a bigger stage, bigger and better sound systems, commercial kitchen upgrades, modernized restrooms, and more.
Although we are a professional theater, volunteers have always been the key to Candlelight’s success, even before we became a nonprofit. The success of every major renovation is owed to the hands-on work and contributions of supporters, and to this day, people donate their time, talent and treasure to allow us to continue to nurture the talents of artists—like Stroman and Willis—to let creativity flow, and to carry on the Ardentown legacy as a destination for theater. We thank our “Friends of Candlelight” for their support, including in-kind donations and discounts, which we could not do without. CLICK HERE TO SEE A LIST OF GENEROUS CANDLELIGHT DONORS.
- Fiddler on the Roof is our most frequently repeated show (eight times!), and our debut show, Forum, has graced the stage five times.
- In 1974, University of Delaware student Susan Stroman was cast in the ensemble of Candlelight’s production of Cabaret. She would later go on to become a five-time Tony Award-winning Broadway director and choreographer. LEARN MORE
- And before we became Candlelight in 1969, award-winning actors such as John Ireland (Oscar), Anthony Perkins (Cannes), Jack Klugman (Emmy) and Barbara Bel Geddes (Emmy) performed here, with Pulitzer Prize–winning playwright Arthur Miller even coming here in 1953 to direct his play, All My Sons. Perkins even worked in the box office!
- Our building once housed a restaurant, known as the Blue Boar Inn and later the Ardentown Inn.