There is a breathtaking new production of Carousel gracing the Civic Opera House stage through May 3. With a star-studded cast and timeless messages, Carousel crosses generations with thought-provoking themes. Waiting in the lobby for the press opening, we saw many families who took the opportunity to dress-up and spend an evening together. Their efforts were richly rewarded with a show that really saves its best life lessons for the after-life.
Carousel’s story is set in time when everyone’s lives seem predetermined. Young women work at a factory, but stay in a rooming house with strict curfews and rules. These women know they are only working until they find a suitable husband. Young men go out to start their work lives, always knowing that they will soon marry and support a family. Most of these people are content with their paths. When two people not content with their paths meet, the story is set in motion. They marry without professing their love, which seems to create an unsteady future foundation. Only the announcement that a baby is coming seems to foretell a happy future. The story is so well known that hard to imagine how main characters Julie and Billy believe that they will finally find happiness as parents. We always hear that having a baby won’t fix a broken relationship, but this time we really cheer for Julie and Billy.
What makes this performance so gorgeous is the layered and nuanced acting. This production features an impressive cast including Steven Pasquele, Laura Ones, Jenn Gambatese, Matthew Hydzik, Denyce Graves, Jarrod Emick, Charlotte d’Amboise and Tony Roberts. Each has impressive credentials in all areas. “Pasquale most recently triumphed on Broadway inThe Bridges of Madison County with Kelli O’Hara and is currently appearing on CBS’sThe Good Wife. A two-time Tony nominee, Osnes most recently starred on Broadway inRodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella. Gambatese returns to Lyric after her highly praised portrayal of Maria in last season’s production of The Sound of Music. Matthew Hydzik recently starred on Broadway in the acclaimed revival of Side Show as song-and-dance man Buddy Foster and as Tony in the recent revival of West Side Story. Internationally acclaimed opera star Denyce Graves will make her musical theater debut with this production, singing the iconic “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” Emickis a Tony Award, Drama Desk, and Theatre Award winner for his portrayal of Joe Hardy in the 1994 production ofDamn Yankees. Two-time Tony nominee d’Amboise recently closed a two-year run in the Broadway revival of Pippin, for which she won her second Astaire Award for excellence in dance on Broadway. Also a two-time Tony nominee, Roberts’s long list of Broadway credits includeThe Royal Family;The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife; Victor, Victoria; Cabaret,The Sisters Rosensweig; Jerome Robbins’ Broadway; Promises, Promises; and Play It Again, Sam. He can be seen on screen in Annie Hall, Play It Again, Sam, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, and many others.”
What’s most impressive about the cast is the way they take characters created in a different era and bring them into 2015. The beautiful sets and costumes take you back to the day the show made its debut, but the issues remain relevant for today’s audience. How much do you give of yourself? How much can you take before you walk away from the one you love? What do you do when your heart and head send conflicting messages? When someone you love dies, are they really gone? Can you have faith in something you feel, but don’t see?
The Lyric Opera has a wonderful exhibit called Creating Carousel that is open before and after the show, as well as during intermission. Creating Carousel takes audience members through the design process with set design paintings, costume design drawings and video interviews. There are also vintage carousel elements on loan from Architectural Artifacts. This is an opportunity to see what goes into creating a larger-than-life production and should be on the agenda for any family attending Carousel.
The Lyric Opera has really gone outside its comfort zone lately with non-traditional productions like the The King & I, the Sound of Music and Carousel. Called the “American Musical Theater Initiative,” these shows are given the same full-scale, magical treatment as traditional opera productions. The sets are big and bold. The costumes are beautifully designed. The full orchestra brings the music alive all the way to the top row. For everyone who has an opportunity to attend these shows, we can only hope that the Lyric Opera continues its American Musical Theater Initiative.
Carousel is a wonderful family show. There were young children at the press opening, but I think tweens and teens are at a perfect age to introduce them to Carousel. You can find more information and purchase tickets at www.lyricopera.org.
Shari writes about life with twins at Two Times the Fun. Photo courtesy of the Lyric Opera.
Disclosure: I did receive press tickets. My words and opinions are my own.