Highly Recommended *****
The Lyric Opera of Chicago, in its new tradition, is presenting a major musical theater presentation each season in addition to the operas presented. This new tradition has been a stunning addition to our “Musical Theater Scene”, and perhaps has drawn some opera lovers to the musical theater platform. I hope so, as the productions they have brought to this large venue have been in a word “AWESOME”!
This year’s presentation is Rodgers & Hammerstein’s classic “Carousel”, which may be considered an original American opera, or at least right behind “Porgy & Bess” which is indeed considered a true opera. This sterling three hour production, directed by Rob Ashford who also does the choreography with David Chase conducting the orchestra, is stunning and breathtaking from start to finish. The three hour run time (with one intermission) is a short period of time as the story is told so beautifully by this angelic and large cast.
The story, based on Molnar’s play “Liliom” as adapted by Benjamin F. Glazer, is the story of a millworker, Julie Jordan (Laura Osnes is a pure delight) meets a carnival Barker, one Billy Bigelow (a powerful character study by Steven Pasquale, who truly shows his worth as he does Billy’s “Soliloquy” at the end of Act One). Julie falls head over heels for this handsome man, but as we later learn, he is not a true family man. Julie’s best friend, another mill worker, Carrie Pipperidge (the adorable Jenn Gambatese), also has met her match, one Enoch Snow (deftly handled by Matthew Hydzik), a fisherman with big plans and high scruples.
The rest of the play deals with the paths in life that these two couples take and the outcome for each. Billy ends up taking a criminal road with a very sad outcome, but afterwards is given the opportunity by the “Starkeeper” (veteran actor Tony Roberts of Broadway and film reputation) to go back to earth and make his daughter believe in herself and that it does not matter what your “roots” were. Each and every person can find happiness and success if they care and are true to themselves.
This is a play filled with hope and love, and love that triumphs over evil. Remember, this wonderful musical opened up in New York back in April of 1945, 70 years ago, and the story still remains a pleasure to watch. In the Lyric’s production, every piece of music is used, even some of the bits and pieces that were left out of the movie and other stage productions. The set by Paolo Ventura is amazingly real with the opening number’s actual carousel appearing as if it was transported from a museum to the stage on Wacker Drive. The sound by Mark Grey, lighting by Neil Austin, costumes by Catherine Zuber and fight direction by Nicolas Sandy are the pieces that make the show as complete as a show can be, but not without adding the ensemble of performers- a very large cast made up of some of Chicago’s finest to go along with those brought in from New York.
It is a pleasure to see actors such as David Lively, George Andrew Wolf, Emily Rohm along with Charlotte d’Amboise (probably the sexiest Mrs. Mullin I have ever seen), Denyce Graves as Netti (wow, what a set of pipes), Martin Harvey (who shines in the second act ballet number) with Louise (Abigail Simon) and Jarrod Emick as bad guy Jigger Craigin. There are many ensemble members that make the music and dance come alive and the re-creation is simply “magical” for the audience to watch. Not one second of the three hours was wasted.
The music is divine as well. The Carousel Waltz, or the opening, instead of an overture is an amazing production on its own. “A Real Nice Clambake”, “What’s The Use Of Wonderin’, “June is Bustin’ Out All Over”, “You’ll Never Walk Alone” and many more will bring back memories as some of these have become “standards” that we have heard in movies and on television as well. This is a very special “happening” as each year the Lyric hangs up its spears and brings to their stage a musical from the past, reborn for a new audience to view. We, the old-timers get to reap these benefits as well. The schedule is a bit different than most musical productions that we see at our local theaters.
“Carousel” will continue at The Civic Opera House, located at 20 N. Wacker Drive (at Madison Street) through May 3rd. Ticket prices vary from as little as $29 and are available at the box office of the Civic Opera House, by phone at 312-827-5600 or online at www.lyricopera.org/carousel
The performance schedule is as follows:
Tuesday, April 14th, April 21st at 12:30 P.M. April 28th at 7 P.M.
Wednesday, April 22nd at 1:30 P.M. and on April 29th at 7 P.M.
Thursday, April 16th , April 23rd and 30th 1:30 and 7 P.M.
Friday, April 17th, April 24th and May 1st 8 P.M.
Saturday, April 18th, April 25th and May 2nd 1:30 and 7 P.M.
Sundays, April 19th , April 26th and May 3rd 1:30 P.M.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “Carousel”