Monthly Archives: February 2015

‘Carousel’ – Sweet Silver Song of a Lark

carousel-1Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Carousel
Directed by John Shillington
Music Direction by Janis Dunson Wilson
Choreography by Michella Snider

For tickets / schedule :
www.spreckelsonline.com
Spreckels Performing Arts Center
Rohnert Park, CA
Spreckels Theatre Company

RUN: February 13 – March 1, 2015
RATING: 4 of 5 stars

(February 15, 2015)

It is difficult to imagine the timeless story failing to move an audience, but the original Hungarian stage play Liliom from 1909 did not find favor until the 1920s when it was translated into English and brought to Broadway. It caught on in America, leading to Orson Welles of The War of the Worlds fame producing a radio broadcast in 1939. The unforgettable team of Rodgers & Hammerstein chose to adapt Liliom after the success of their first musical Oklahoma!.

Carousel’s haunting melodies reflect the longing expressed by characters throughout the musical, asking what it is to love someone, if they are worthy of forgiveness, and why we sometimes hurt those we care for most deeply. It is a dark contemplation of the flaws in humanity, yet mingled with hope and glimpses of sunlight through the gloom, which makes it all the more riveting.

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Spreckels presents it as a staged concert, conducted by Janis Dunson Wilson. Although present on stage, the musicians did not distract from the action, as the cast was strong enough to fully draw attention throughout both acts.

Jennifer Mitchell as Julie Jordan conveyed a wistful hope, supported by an angelic voice that brought the score to life. Her If I Loved You was ethereal in its beauty, and You’ll Never Walk Alone caused many a tear in the House. Ezra Hernandez as Billy Bigelow was charismatic and fiery, with solid dancing skills and believable in the decisions of his character.

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The supporting cast was a joy to watch, from the shenanigans of Carrie Pipperidge (Rebekah Pearson) and Enoch Snow (Sean O’Brien) to the nefarious Jigger Craigin (Tim Setzer). The musicians were shown to full effect during the Ballet, and the pas de deux of Louise Bigelow (Siena Warnert) and Carnival Boy (Casey Rusher) was well executed, although their individual solos were a bit ragged, particularly the opening sequence of Louise along the beach. She did capture the enraptured playfulness of her character, and subsequent confusion when rejected by the Carnival Boy.

Spreckels’ Carousel portrays the compelling story with vivid accuracy. It is a moving tribute that love can weather any storm, even death itself. Do not miss Jennifer Mitchell’s Julie—she is a jewel in this production, with a voice worthy of the pearly gates that Billy demands so fervently to see.

‘Heroines’ Suffrage Inspired Comic Opera Mashup

heroines-sonoma-state-university-1HEROINES
Concept & Music Direction by Lynne Morrow
Concept, Script, Stage Direction, & Choreography by Jane Erwin Hammett

Sonoma State University Department of Theatre Arts & Dance
Evert. B Person Theatre

RUN: February 5-15, 2015
RATING: 3 of 5 stars

February 6, 2015

Heroines is a satirical exploration of the veiled misogyny inherent in many light opera plots. Gathering women from Gilbert & Sullivan, Franz Lehar, Noel Coward, and others in a delightful crossover operetta, the characters journey toward a greater understanding of their roles as women in society.

Jenny (Anna Leach) is drawn from The Threepenny Opera, by Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht, during a moment of crucial decision. She leads the way of discovery while coming to grips with her past. The German play opened in 1928 in the heart of Berlin, an instant success, until Brecht and Weill had to flee the country in the wake of Hitler’s rise to power. She represents the lowest a woman can fall, yet keeps fighting to survive, offering the memorable song “Pirate Jenny”.

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Canela Fullbright McCoubrey as Patience brought a pure, sweet soprano to the role. Emily Thomason as Rose was charming in her demeanor, although her voice was rather soft. Her comedic foil Margaret (Sarah Maxon) was brilliant. Maxon has the perfect expressive acting style for the role of a bride gone mad by being jilted on her wedding day; she would be a stunning Miss Havisham. Maxon was truly mesmerizing in her dedication to embodying Margaret. Equally impressive was Allison Spencer as Eurydice; she owned the stage, projecting well and taking the audience by storm. Her character is from Orpheus in the Underworld by Jacques Offenback & Ludovic Halévy. Premiering in 1858, it was originally considered offensive by critics for changing the original Greek myth so carelessly, incorporating Roman elements and altering Eurydice from a blushing bride killed at her wedding to a strong woman who knew what she wanted and took it. Heroines picks up the mantle, and while I enjoyed the entire sequence, the Classicist in me winced at the lack of differentiation between Tartarus, Hades’ Palace, the Fields of Punishment, the Asphodel Meadows, Elysium, and the Isles of the Blessed.

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Costume design (Jessica Dyble) was simple and effective to clarify characters and times, with a dash of Steampunk inspiration for The Threepenny Opera. Sets (Travis O Deck) featured fractured golden frames—an observant commentary on the state of the women as they began their odyssey.

Heroines is reminiscent of William Makepeace Thackeray’s sharp tongued, yet entertaining, The Book of Snobs, complete with rants about eating peas with a knife, thanks to a witty script from Jane Erwin Hammett. Memorable musical numbers include “Cheerily carols the lark” with Sarah Maxon, originally from Ruddygore, and “Death to the invader”, from Princess Ida.

If you relish comic opera, don’t miss this delightful mashup of characters as they discover what it is to be heroines.