Ryan McKinny as Billy Bigelow and the ensemble in The Glimmerglass Festival's 2014 production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Carousel." Photo: Karli Cadel/The Glimmerglass Festival.
Reviewed by James Karas
The Glimmerglass Festival, under its Artistic and General Director Francesca Zambello, is continuing with its established programming of one chestnut (Madame Butterfly), one less well-known work (Ariadne auf Naxos), one modern opera (An American Tragedy) and a Broadway musical (Carousel). Running from July 11 to August 24, 2014 in a picture-perfect setting on Lake Otsego near Cooperstown, New York, the Festival is the ideal companion piece for baseball enthusiasts. (No, companion piece does not mean antidote!)
This year’s Broadway offering is Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel in a production directed by Charles Newell. It is an intelligent work that, in addition to its great melodies, comedy and drama, touches on the question of good and evil and travels to the afterlife and back.
Billy Bigelow (Ryan McKinny) is a carousel barker with many unpleasant traits including ill temper, violence, and attempted robbery to his discredit. Julie Jordan (Andrea Carroll) sees his good side and marries him despite being struck by him. The robbery is botched and Billy stabs himself. He is not permitted to enter heaven because he has not done enough good and he returns here 15 years later to see his daughter and the rest of his circle.
Sharin Apostolou as Carrie, Andrea Carroll as Julie and Ryan McKinny as Billy Bigelow in Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Carousel." Photo: Karli Cadel/The Glimmerglass Festival.
Bass-baritone McKinny gives a fine accounting of the role of Billy. We don’t like Billy but, like Julie, we want to like him. McKinny soars when he sings and we find sympathy for his character and his desire to help his daughter.
Carroll’s Julie is the soul of forbearance, forgiveness and love in a fine performance. She is matched by soprano Sharin Apostolou as Carrie, the woman who marries Enoch (tenor Joe Shadday) for practical reasons. She ends up with wealth, status and many children.
Mezzo-soprano Deborah Nansteel gives a superb performance as Nettie Fowler as does Rebecca Finnegan as Mrs. Mullin. Shadday fell a bit short of the vocal requirements for Enoch but overall the singing and acting were very good.
Carolina M. Villaraos as Louise and Tyler Whitaker as Enoch Snow Jr. danced the beautiful ballet sequence in the second act. Kudos to choreographer Daniel Pelzig.
John Culbert’s sets are Spartan but effective. There is the suggestion of a fishing village with very little ornamentation and the scene in heaven is done with changes in lighting and little else. You can provide elaborate sets but you don’t need them for a fine production. Mark McCullough deserves special kudos for his imaginative and highly effective use of lighting.
Doug Peck conducts The Glimmerglass Festival Orchestra in a fine rendition of Rodgers’s score.
Charles Newell directs with economy of ornamentation but with musical and emotional effectiveness. _____
Carousel by Richard Rodgers (music) and Oscar Hammerstein II (book and lyrics) opened on July 12 and will be performed twelve times in repertory until August 22, 2014 at the Alice Busch Opera Theater, Cooperstown, New York. Tickets and information (607) 547-0700 or www.glimmerglass.org