Carousel

Music by Richard Rodgerscarousel directed by stacey flaster

Book & Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II

Based on Ferenc Molnar’s play “Liliom”

As adapted by Benjamin F. Glazer

Stage Director & Choreographer Stacey Flaster

Conductor Roger L. Bingaman

Produced by Light Opera Works

At Cahn Auditorium

Deeply emotional love story with a hauntingly beautiful score defines Carousel

Light Opera Works keeps their tradition of mounting classical musicals complete without cutting any songs or any of the underscoring or transitional music while utilizing a 30 piece orchestra. Using lavish sets (designed by Tom Burch) and colorful costumes (by Nikki Delhomme) with excellent lighting (by Andrew Meyers), Director/Choreographer Stacey Flaster (just off a spectacular Jesus Christ Superstar) has another top-notch production.

carousel directed by stacey flaster

Stacey Flaster has found a rich emotional core that often is overlooked in many productions of Carousel. Natalie Ford, a terrific singer with strong acting abilities quite subtly but ever stead fast both understands and loves Billy Bigelow (Cooper David Grodin) unconditionally.  Ford’s emotions contain vulnerability that makes us weep for her since to her life is about love. Cooper David Grodin, in his Chicago debut, exhibits a power voice and enough acting chops to deliver in the pivotal Bench Scene when he charms and challenges Julie with their duet “If I Loved You.”   Sparks fly and since she does love him so they eventually marry.

We see the charming 1873 New England villagers celebrating summer with “June Is Bustin’ Out All Over” show -stopper nicely stage by Flaster.  In contrast to Julie marrying the immature Billy, we see another kind of love that for stability and security with a genuine good man-Enoch Snow (played comically by George Keating who also sings wonderfully). Carrie (Elizabeth Lanza who both sings and acts marvelously) demonstrates another form of love with Mr. Snow. Keating and Lanza sweetly sing “When the Children Are Asleep” indicating their bond.

carousel directed by stacey flaster

When Billy learns that Julie is with child, he decides to take Jigger (Jeremy Trager a most effective villain) up on his plan commit a robbery. He fantasizes about his child in the most ambitious “Soliloquy” as he is filled with parental pride and genuine tenderness for his child. “Soliloquy” is a most difficult song to land correctly as it combines a rich vocal range and acting chops. Cooper David Grodin impressively succeeded. We see that Billy possesses some redeeming human qualities.

Natalie Ford’s deeply emotional rendering of  “What’s the Use of Wond’rin”  is her ode to unconditional love.  We empathize with her. Billy and Jigger botch the robbery and Billy kills himself rather than be arrested.  As Julie grieves for Billy, Nettie Fowler (the power voice from Winfred Faix Brown) sings the ringing anthem “You’ll Never Walk Alone. ” Tears abound.

Billy gets a chance to redeem himself by helping his daughter find her way. The marvelous Ballet scene – wonderfully executed by Nicole Miller and Todd Rhoades and the dancers shows Billy how temptations could destroy Julie if he doesn’t act.

The emotions flow as Billy sings a reprise of “If I Loved You” to Julie (who senses his presence).  Stacey Flaster got all the key elements right in this strong production of a major classic.  This dark themed musical tackles tough issues with honesty and heart. Flaster sure knows how to both tell a story and mount a musical. Her Carousel is a major achievement. Don’t miss it.

Highly Recommended

Tom Williams

Light Opera Works presents “Carousel” through August 29, 2010 at Cahn Auditorium, located at 600 Emerson Street in Evanston. The show runs 2 hours 50 minutes with intermission. Performances are Wednesday and Sunday at 2:00 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8:00 p.m. Tickets range from $32 to $92. Ages 21 and younger are half price.  Call 847-869-6300 or visit www.musictheaterworks.com.