Lyric Opera’s “Carousel” – Magical, Transporting


Rodgers & Hammerstein musicals never disappoint.  That said, the Lyric’s production of “Carousel” is possibly the best mounting of a Rodgers & Hammerstein work in Chicago’s history.


There was no shortage of star power on the stage.



Most notably, Steven Pasquale as Billy Bigelow has a stage presence that commands your attention even in the back of the grand opera hall.  The most excellent book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II demand more than vocal power, and Steven Pasquale—from posture to tone—make the words of this story come alive on par with the music.



And what music it is!  This is not just the immediately catching melody that one associates with Rodgers. 



So many songs of Carousel are iconic, and not just for those of us who grew up with the original cast Broadway recording filling our home.  If we weren’t there by then, when Julie Jordan (Laura Osnes) and Billy Bigelow (Pasquale) sing “If I Loved You” we are thoroughly transported into Carousel’s magic.



Carrie Pipperidge (Jenn Gambatese) sings of her love “Mr. Snow” with such enthusiasm that when said Mr. Enoch Snow (Matthew Hydzik) shows up to sing of his grand plans, “Geraniums in the Winder”,



we already are set to love him, grandiosity warts and all. 



When Nettie Fowler (Denyce Graves) first sings “You’ll Never Walk Alone” in a style true to her operatic diva stature, we quake with feeling. 




The brilliance of melody and lyrics combining in “What’s the Use of Wondrin” sung by Julie (Laura Osnes) will newly grab you as far more nuanced than such a lovely tune should allow.  And as Billy Bigelow (Steven Pasquale) follows the trajectory of his newly discovered passions about his unborn child in “Soliloquy” he holds us firmly in his grip to go along in the journey. 




Perhaps the biggest star of all was Paolo Ventura, the Set Designer.  In the program we read with amazement that this work is actually his theatrical debut.  His imagination is opera-hall sized, creating just the right mix of storybook tale and realism to catapult us into the Carousel universe. 



If you are wondering what an opera house has to offer to the Broadway genre, look no further.



How wonderful that Director Rob Ashford choreographed all-new pieces for Lyric Opera’s new production of CAROUSEL.  And better yet that the dancers— Abigail Simon as Louise, Martin Harvey as her Carnival Boy partner, Charlotte D’Amboise as the nightmare image of Mrs. Mullin, and the entire dance ensemble gave flawless performances.



One cameo that especially delights is seeing Tony Roberts – a face perhaps more familiar to us as a regular in Woody Allen movies—playing Starkeeper and a folksy Dr. Seldon.



You too may be drying your eyes at the performance end.  You too may still be walking on air the day after.


Now through May 3 at the Civic Opera House, 20 North Wacker Drive, Chicago.


For tickets visit the Lyric Opera website or call the Lyric box office at 312 827 5600.




Photos: Todd Rosenberg, unless otherwise indicated











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