Theatre

The Lyric Opera continues its Broadway at Lyric series, with the fifth installment in the series - My Fair Lady which opened on Saturday to a full house. The musical is based on the play Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw and inspired by the Greek myth of Pygmalion, a sculptor who falls in love with his creation. The play and the musical translate this myth into the story of Henry Higgins and his “project” Eliza Doolittle. Eliza is a Cockney flower girl who has a run in with Higgins, a professor of phonetics, and Colonel Pickering, a fellow linguist in front of the Royal Opera House where Higgins brags that in six months he could turn Eliza into a lady by teaching her to speak proper English. Eliza takes him up on that challenge, and urged on by Pickering, they begin their lessons. Over time, Eliza’s speech improves and with some elegant new clothes she almost passes her first test at the Ascot Racecourse, and reaches her prime as the Embassy Ball where she fascinates the crowd and is asked to dance by the Crown Prince. Throughout their time together, Eliza starts to have feelings for Henry, but even after her spectacular showing at the ball, he barely gives her the time of day, focusing instead on how great of a job he did. Only after Eliza leaves, does he start to realize he may have actually developed feelings for her as well, thus falling for his “creation”. 

 

As expected, the production is a massive one, worthy of the Lyric Opera, boasting a cast of 56 singers, dancers and actors. This allows for some excellent ensemble pieces which take over the stage with energy. Choreographer Lynne Page took on this large cast with enthusiasm, creating interesting, playful and engaging choreography which is the highlight of the show. One of the most impressive numbers is by far “Get Me to the Church on Time”. Donald Maxwell as Alfred P. Doolittle, Eliza’s father, was excellent creating a loud and boisterous, yet endearing, character that leads this scene which is executed with precision and gusto. 

 

The set design has its ups and downs. The Covent Garden tenement scenes are backed by a flat white on white backdrop and is only brought into a third dimension with the addition of some (also white) columns. While the large cast helps to liven up the Covent Garden setting during numbers like “With a Little Bit of Luck”, it leaves some colors and dimension to be desired. Higgins study on the other hand, while also based in shades of ivory, creates more on an interesting backdrop to indoor scenes, making use of the desk, chairs and various phonographs, as well as rows and rows of bookshelves and a second story to add dimension to the scenes set here. 

 

Lisa O’Hare as Eliza is excellent and brings the role to life with her powerful voice and commanding stage presence. Her transformation throughout the show is believable and she carries the audience into the unexpected challenges that she faced as a result of her makeover. Richard E. Grant plays Henry Higgins opposite Eliza. While he perfectly captures the immaturity and poor manners of the ridiculously intelligent character, the role is played too over the top, with exaggerated movements that seem to flail around the stage at times. Nicolas Le Prevost as Colonel Pickering provides some good counter balances to Higgins and Bryce Pinkham as Freddy, Eliza’s enamored suitor, really shines in “On the Street Where You Live”. 

 

Overall the production is strong, and has a huge presence, more due to its tremendous cast and elegant, colorful and sparkly costumes designed by Anthony Powell (which makes the scene at the Ball a joy to watch!) than the set or staging itself. With some exceptional performances bringing to life some very iconic songs, the good far outweighs the bad in this production of Lerner and Loewe’s My Fair Lady, directed by Olivier Fredj. My Fair Lady is running at the Lyric Opera through May 21st. For tickets and more show information visit https://www.lyricopera.org/.  

 

Published in Theatre in Review

In anticipation of high ticket demand, Lyric Opera of Chicago announced today that the initial block of tickets for its Spring 2018 production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s iconic rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar will be available for sale a year in advance, starting Thursday, March 9, 2017 at 10 a.m. The North American debut of Jesus Christ Superstar, in a reimagining of Timothy Sheader’s award-winning production from London’s Regent’s Park Open-Air Theatre, will be presented at Lyric’s Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Drive, Chicago, April 27 - May 20, 2018.  Single tickets, which start at $44.00, will be available online at https://www.lyricopera.org/concertstickets/calendar/2017-2018/productions/lyricopera/jesus-christ-superstar-tickets, by visiting Lyric’s Civic Opera House box office, or by calling 312-827-5600.

Three-time Olivier Award winner Timothy Sheader directs the American debut of his acclaimed 2016 production from Regent’s Park Open-Air Theatre. Sheader will be joined in Chicago by the original creative team from this production to re-envision and mount the grand-scale Lyric production, including Olivier Award-winning choreographer Drew McOnie, Tony Award-nominated set & costume designer Tom Scutt and Olivier Award-nominated lighting designer, Lee Curran. The Chicago production will feature an all-star cast (to be announced at a later date), along with members of the Lyric Opera Orchestra and Chorus.

Jesus Christ Superstar is the sixth installment of Lyric’s Musical Initiative. It follows Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe’s beloved My Fair Lady, which is being presented at Lyric’s Civic Opera House, April 28-May 21, 2017.  

“Up to now in our musical theater productions, we’ve concentrated on American classics,” notes Lyric's General Director, President & CEO Anthony Freud, “but in 2017/18, for the first time, we’re producing an iconic rock opera, one that suits a big theater: Jesus Christ Superstar.” In director Timothy Sheader’s production, “Our audience will be reminded that this is a truly unforgettable piece. When it arrived in America in 1972, it became one of the greatest successes in Broadway history, and it’s been enthralling audiences everywhere ever since.”

Jesus Christ Superstar is an iconic rock opera that reinvented musical theater for the modern age. With music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice, this global blockbuster tells the story of the final weeks in the life of Jesus Christ, from the perspective of Judas Iscariot. As Christ’s followers grow more fervent, Judas must make his fateful choice between faith and betrayal. Filled with an exciting mix of musical styles that draw upon 1970s rock, gospel, folk and funk themes, this contemporary imagining of the biblical tale features high-energy dance and powerful storytelling.

The Lyric Opera premiere of Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar is generously made possible by Lead Sponsor The Negaunee Foundation and cosponsor Mr. and Mrs. J. Christopher Reyes. Production by The Regent’s Park Theatre London.

Single tickets for the balance of Lyric Opera’s 2017/18 season will go on sale in July 2017. Season subscriptions are on-sale now by visiting https://www.lyricopera.org/concertstickets/1718-lyric-opera-season

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre
Monday, 13 February 2017 16:02

Carmen: Love in the Time of Rebellion

The heart wants what the heart wants and the fiery, rebellious Carmen, in the self-titled opera now playing at Lyric Opera of Chicago, follows that truism all the way to a tragic end. Set against the backdrop of Seville, Spain, during the Spanish Civil War of the 1900's, we see obsession, passion, freedom and love all come together in this story of a deadly love triangle.

 

Don José (Joseph Calleja), a soldier in the army, is sent to break up a fight at a cigarette factory. There he meets the seductive gypsy Carmen (Ekaterina Gubanova). He becomes so enthralled and bewitched by her that he abandons his childhood sweetheart Micaëla (Eleanor Buratto) and deserts his post just to follow her. But the tighter he tries to hold on their love the more Carmen longs to be free. José eventually loses her to the toreador (bull fighter) Escamillo (Christian Van Horn), resulting in a heartrending ending.

 

It is difficult to root for the love of Don José and Carmen, especially as the opera unfolds and we see how brutal and abusive José can be. Nothing is more discordant than seeing José sing about the depth of his love for Carmen after he just threw her across a table. There is no doubt that he believes he loves her and loves her deeply – he gave up everything to follow her. But perhaps the real question is does he know her or is he just enraptured by a seductive illusion that he couldn’t resist?

 

Don José consistently tries to get Carmen to bend to his will and be framed by his restrictive love. But Carmen’s will is just too strong, her lust for life too vivid and her need for freedom too all-encompassing to be captured in his stranglehold of love.

 

Carmen later meets Escamillo, the celebrated bull fighter and hero, who dares to love her for who she is – a rebellious bird. After all her wanderings she has finally found a home and true love but it comes at a very high price.

 

This thrilling story of Carmen is revealed through soaring, passionate arias; spoken dialogue; a beautiful score of Georges Bizet’s popular and very recognizable music; and ballet.

 

The addition of the ballet dancers adds so much more to the telling of the story. In particular, the bull which is used as a visual symbol throughout the production depicting both a disastrous love affair and a man caught in a flaming tailspin. We see the bull at key points during the opera from the opening moments all the way to the tragic end where Escamillo’s bull fight occurs simultaneously with Don José and Carmen’s final fight.

 

Ekaterina Gubanova is brilliant as Carmen while Joseph Calleja is equal to the task as Don Jose. 

 

Recommended.

 

Carmen is performed in French with projected English translations and the running time is approximately 3 hours and 5 minutes, including 1 intermission.

 

The opera runs through March 25 at Lyric’s Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Drive, Chicago. Performance dates are Feb. 11, 22, 28, Mar. 3, 6, 22, 25 at 7:30pm; Feb. 15, 19, Mar. 16, 19 at 2:00pm. For tickets and information, call (312) 827-5600 or click here.

 

 

Published in Theatre in Review

Watching an inner circle of Druids contemplate the eventual fall of Rome, my thoughts turned to Game of Thrones, to Mad Maxx’s Thunderdome, even alighting ever so briefly on our own political landscape.  

Lyric Opera’s production Bellini’s beautiful 1831 opera carefully builds such a world, with Iron Age sets in neutral grays, tattooed warriors in leather, heads shaved or dreadlocks piled high, wielding battleaxes, calling for war with the Romans who have desecrated their forest sanctums. 

Then comes Norma, part priestess, part divinity, channeling to her people the spirits of the gods of earth. Soprano Sondra Radvanovsky is the embodiment of the celebrated bel canto singing Bellini calls for, the carefully crafted libretto all gorgeous melody and harmony – no shouted operatic dialog, just lyrical musical poetry in song. This is opera for opera haters. 

Norma must certainly be the most accessible of the operas produced by the Lyric, and its success – along with Bellini’s masterful composition – is largely on the strength of the designers of its costumes and sets. Above those Druids (that term refers to the learned class among the Celtic people of Europe) a sacred oak floats on its side. A rolling altar brings priestess Norma up to the tree, where she cut the boughs of Mistletoe with a golden sickle. This is the very ceremony the real Celtic Druids would hold on new moons following the Winter Solstice. Notably women and men shared the power in this society whose women took the lead. 

While I am not deeply schooled in the opera form and knew nothing of Norma before attending, I was very much able to feel, see and hear all this happening on the Lyric Opera stage, where Norma works her magic. The opera overall was a co-production of the Lyric, the San Francisco Opera, Toronto’s Canadian Opera Company, and Barcelona’s Gran Teatre del Liceu.  And no wonder it is so wonderful:

• The set was designed by David Korins, nominated for a Tony for his sets on Hamilton, with scenery built and painted in the shops at the Canada and San Francisco Opera

• Costumes are by Jessica Jahn, and were fabricated at the San Francisco Opera costume shop; makeup and wigs are by Sarah Hatten

• Lighting, by Duane Schuler, is a huge part of the production, allowing the singers to concentrate on their music while shifting the focal point in concert with the development of each scene. 

The traditional opera-style drama in the story stems from two Druid women secretly falling for the same Roman proconsul – the emissary whose culture will ultimately destroy the Celt’s world. But this drama rises to a level of tragedy, as Norma determines that, having destroyed her priestly standing, and broken her spiritual bond with her secret love affair with the Roman, she must leave her role, and sacrifice her life in a ritual ceremony. 

Tenor Russell Thomas as the Roman proconsul Pollione is the perfect vocal complement to Radvanosky (she is from Berwyn, by the way), and bass Andrea Silvestrelli towers (literally - he is quite tall - and musically) above the scenes as Norma’s father, Oroveso. 

As an opera, this production is sterling. The Lyric Opera Orchestra, conducted by Riccardo Frizza, was flawless, supporting in perfect balance the soloists and chorus. Kevin Newbury directed the action at a steady clip, never lagging, and paced continuously in harmony with the score.  

The design of this production is much more than window dressing. It conveys the essence of a timeless story: a noble native culture is upended by powerful invaders, whose influence portends the end of a way of life. Lyric Opera's Norma is highly recommended

Published in Theatre in Review

Mozart’s The Magic Flute, now playing at the Lyric Opera of Chicago is an enchanting and charming performance - a perfect family outing especially for the holiday season.

 

Based on Mozart’s final and majestic opera, The Magic Flute is a timeless tale of good versus evil, perseverance, and love conquering all.

 

The basic storyline revolves around Princess Pamina, daughter of the Queen of the Night who has been captured by the high priest Sarastro. Prince Tamino falls in love with a portrait of Pamina he receives from the queen’s three ladies. The queen tells Tamino that if he finds Pamina, she will be his. Papageno, the queen's birdcatcher, joins him on the quest. Aided by Tamino’s magic flute and Papageno’s magic bells, they face numerous challenges separately and together, including an encounter with the comically savage Monostatos, who lusts after Pamina. Three genies are their guides. Eventually, the Queen of the Night is vanquished, Tamino and Pamina are united, and Papageno finds love with Papagena as the queen's forces of evil yield to the forces of good. 

 

Directed by Neil Armfield, the staging of the Lyrics’ version of the Magic Flute is not only inventive with the use of the “play within a play” technique but it also is accessible with a warm familial glow, making it an enjoyable experience for opera lovers and newcomers alike.

 

With the theme of a backyard party, the show opens with a lovely 1950's Midwestern-style colonial home, designed by Dale Ferguson, filling the stage and slowly rotating as bright stars glitter in the backdrop like spotlights shining down on the performance that is taking place.

 

The house buzzes with activity as a diverse group of people arrive carrying packages and other items as they prepare for a bit of “backyard community theater” in a production put on by the neighborhood kids.

 

Perfectly designed rooms from the upstairs bedroom to the dining room and kitchen below are glimpsed through the windows revealing small vignettes of preparation for the evening performance. One neighbor hangs lights along the backyard deck and others set up chairs for the audience and operate the spotlights.

 

Then finally, after every piece is in place, the neighbors are seated. The kids' show begins and the real audience is transported into a land of fantasy with soaring arias. In particular, soprano Kathryn Lewek in her Lyric debut as Queen of the Night and bass-baritone Adam Plachetka, as Papageno (the queen's birdcatcher) were vocal standouts but the entire cast was sublime.

 

Highly recommended.

 

The Magic Flute runs until January 27 at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. There is a free 30-minute pre-performance talk in the theater starting an hour before each performance. For tickets and information call (312) 827-5600 or go to www.lyricopera.org/Flute.

 

Published in Theatre in Review

On the 400th year anniversary of William Shakespeare's death Lyric Opera of Chicago appropriately chose to commemorate the famed playwright’s life by putting on an outstanding production of Romeo and Juliet. Helping to make this such a special piece of operatic theatre, Joseph Calleja and Susanna Phillips as the tragically famous lovesick couple do a magnificent job vocally and emotionally throughout the show to bring the real spirit of youthful, love at first sight to life. 

 

The show begins with the stage curtain up and the entire cast ominously moves towards the audience singing the overture which was very effective in setting the tone of the times the play is set in. 

 

Soprano Susanna Phillips, perfectly complimenting tenor Calleja, is especially great in her role. Dressed all in pink with gold sparkles, she embodies the very essence of springtime love in her opening number.  When, at one point, she begs her nanny to stop talking about her impending marriage to an older man that Juliet does not love you really want her to get her wish, as her fresh hopeful desire to just dance and enjoy life is very infectious.

 

Joshua Hopkins as Romeo’s best pal Mercutio and Jason Slayden as Juliet’s short-fused cousin Tybalt also take to their roles with vigor and precision, really capturing the two sworn enemies’ disdain for each other while baritone Christian Van Horn is well cast as Friar Laurence, who means well though his efforts only end in tragedy.   

I loved ALL the costumes by Jennifer Tipton!  The rich, fabrics and colors, her hats and accessories for the women brought the whole stage to life. Also, the swashbuckling style of leather and velvet for the men was extremely entertaining and fitting to watch both their swordplay and Romeo’s lovemaking to Juliet.

 

Michael Yeargan's unit set is foreboding and appropriately towers over the cast as if to say there is no escape from this time period and its rules. However, I was looking forward to several set changes. Instead, the central platform served as a ballroom dance floor, Friar Laurence's cell, a town square and the crypt where the young couple meet their fate. I felt this modern touch of using a single large white sheet to signify Juliet's bedroom, then the church, and the burial shroud, etc., etc., was very one dimensional. The cast, so visually stunning, is so large even the hefty set seemed to barely contain them in various scenes. Still, overall, the production is a grand spectacle that is as colorful and enchanting as it is memorable.

 

Directed with fierce and daring force by Bartlett Sher, the Tony Award-winning Broadway director who's making his Lyric debut with this French piece by Charles Gounod, Romeo and Juliet succeeds marvelously on many levels. Of course this can only be accomplished with the comprehensive orchestral conducting of Emmanuel Villaume, who leads the often powerful and sometimes dreamy soundtrack to create a truly hauntingly tragic yet beautiful experience.  The romanticism of the writing is so beautiful, so poetic, I found myself watching the screen high above the stage trying to memorize some of the pure poetry as the play went along. The lines of love and adoration spoken by Romeo and Juliet to each other were so exquisitely written, I have never seen an American adaptation of this or any love story which compares to this poetic version of the play.

 

No spoilers but there is a slight change to the ending scene that might throw off a few viewers but I still found it quite enjoyable. 

 

This is a perfect opera to take your date to for an evening of romance that will thrill and delight. Your children will love this show because it renders the story of forbidden love and the destruction of such love because of unforgiving, ignorant family feuding and brings it to life in a compassionate and ever so romantic way.

 

Romeo and Juliet is being performed at Lyric Opera of Chicago through March 19th and is sure to please the casual and more adventurous theatre and opera lovers alike. For more information on this piece so wonderfully adapted for stage, visit www.LyricOpera.org. 

 

Published in Theatre Reviews
Monday, 13 April 2015 00:00

"Carousel" Is A Ride to Remember

Roger and Hammerstein’s “Carousel” is always a treat, and that holds true especially with Lyric Opera of Chicago’s current production at the Civic Opera House. A true spectacle of colorful sets, scenic backdrops and larger than life dancing choreography envelope brilliant vocal performances in the fun classic. Of course, the carousel itself is eye candy in itself.

Set in 1873 Maine, the story begins when two young females, Carrie and Julie, visit the carousel where they meet barker, Billy Bigelow. As a “barker”, Billy’s job is to convince crowd members to take a ride on the carousel and does so by shouting out catchy sell phrases and flirting with nearby girls. After Billy puts his arm around Julie for the duration of a ride, Mrs. Mullin, the widowed owner of the carousel ride, lets him go and tells him never to return. Out of work, Billy runs into Julie where a romance blooms and a relationship develops. As sweet and simple as Julie is, Billy’s exterior is tough and carefree. It’s not long after the two are married that Julie surprises Billy with the news that she is pregnant. Billy, already struggling with raising money for he and his wife, is approached by his ex-con, ne'er-do-well whaler friend, Jigger, who presents the idea of robbing Julie’s former boss- and killing him. Billy refuses but has to rethink the idea as he becomes more and more desperate.

There is an overabundance of musical talent in this fifty-plus member cast that provides one beautiful performance after another. In supporting roles, Jenn Gamatese is simply terrific as “Carrie Pepperidge” as is Matthew Hydzik as her love interest “Enoch Snow”. The two are particularly enjoyable when performing together in the numbers “Mr. Snow” and “When the Children Are Asleep”. Charlotte D’Amboise is sensational as “Mrs. Mullin” and gets to really show off her dancing chops in the show’s later afterlife scene – a surreal display put together just dazzlingly by the production team. Also contributing to the show’s beauty and elegance is Denyce Graves whose stunning vocals can be appreciated in “June Is Bustin’ Out All Over”. Laura Osnes plays “Julie Jordan” and delivers several breathtaking singing performances, most notably in her solo number “What’s the Use of Wondrin’”.

Taking the lead is Steven Pasquale as our conflicted, good hearted but troubled “Billy Bigelow”. Pasquale’s performance is just magnificent. From the show’s early duet that has Billy and Julie singing “If I Loved You” to each other, it was apparent this would be one special production. Pasquale leads this gifted cast with his amazing vocal prowess, heartfelt passion and just the right amount of bravado. Pasquale melts the audience with his finessed vocals, “The Highest Judge of All” being the perfect example.

Directed and choreographed by Rob Ashford and conducted by David Chase, Carousel is a classic that should be seen by everyone young, old and in between.

Carousel is being performed at the Civic Opera House through May 3rd. For tickets and/or more show information, visit www.lyricopera.org/carousel or call 312-827-5600. 

Published in Theatre Reviews

Lyric Opera of Chicago is proud to present the all-new exhibition “Creating Carousel” at the Civic Opera House. It opens on Friday, April 10, coinciding with the preview matinee performance of Lyric’s new production of Carousel. The exhibition, on the lower level of the Civic Opera House, will be open for all performances of Carousel through May 3. It is free to performance ticketholders.

 

Creating Carousel”features the work of Italian visual artist and set designer Paolo Ventura. When Carousel director/choreographer Rob Ashford saw Ventura’s Winter Stories exhibition about six years ago, he “just fell in love with it,” Ashford recalled. “Part of it was set around a circus, a carnival. It was so moving and so beautiful and I was so captivated by it. I said, ‘If I ever do Carousel, that is the person who must design it.’ Then when Anthony [Freud, Lyric’s general director] approached me about it I said, ‘Can you get this guy?’ We made an all-out effort and we succeeded. We’re very excited to work together, to have Paolo make his theater and opera debut with Carousel in Chicago.”

 

Ventura accepted the invitation enthusiastically. “My work was already theatrical,” noted the artist. “I was just making theater on my table, so to have the chance to work on a much bigger scale really excited me. I immediately built the caravan, which became the key for the entire show.” That piece will be part of the Opera Club exhibition at Lyric.

 

Creating Carousel” features eight set-design paintings, several mid-scale scenic elements that were part of the original design presentation, and a video interview with Ventura. The video element explores Ventura’s photo series Winter Stories, scenes he created as de facto set models and then photographed.

Additionally, the exhibition includes 28 costume-design drawings from the production by Catherine Zuber. Also on view will be vintage objéts on loan from Architectural Artifacts: an illuminated rounding board (the top of a carousel) and three antique carousel horses. Eight 40 x 60” rehearsal photos will be on display in the bar area of the Opera Club.

 

Carousel ticket holders can visit the “Creating Carousel” exhibition before curtain and during intermission of all performances.  It is co-curated by Michael Schoenig, Lyric’s technical finance manager, and Scott Marr, Lyric’s production design director PAOLO VENTURA is an internationally acclaimed artist who makes his theatrical debut with Carousel. A native of Milan, his work has been exhibited at the Forma International Center for Photography (Milan), Rencontres de la Photographie (Arles), and Maison Européenne de la Photographie (Paris). In 2012 he created a series of works for the Italian national pavilion at the 54th Venice Biennale. His works have been acquired by prominent public collections, including Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, the Library of Congress, and Miami’s Martin Margulies Collection. Four monographs of his work have been published: War Souvenir (Contrasto, 2006), Winter Stories (Aperture and Contrasto, 2009), The Automaton (Peliti Asociati, 2011), and Lo Zuavo Scomparso (Punctum Press, 2012). Ventura was raised by a celebrated Italian children’s book illustrator, and a sense of childlike wonder pervades all of his work, which often features images of street performers, theaters, and cinemas, evoking the fanciful compositions of Toulouse-Lautrec. But Ventura’s work is also imbued with a disquiet that is all the more jarring for the superficially playful nature of his subjects, perhaps reflecting his unease about our changing, increasingly technological world.

 

CATHERINE ZUBER debuted at Lyric Opera in 2013-14 with costume designs for The Barber of Seville. Her successes in opera include six Metropolitan Opera productions (all seen in HD transmissions), as well as La forza del destino (Washington), Faust (Baden-Baden),Carmen and Nico Muhly’s Two Boys (English National Opera), Roméo et Juliette (Salzburg), and the Ring cycle (Washington, San Francisco). Zuber has been equally acclaimed on Broadway in musical theater (The King and I, Gigi, The Bridges of Madison County, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, Cry-Baby, Dracula, Little Women, Triumph of Love, The Sound of Music, The Red Shoes), comedy (Born Yesterday, The Royal Family, Dinner at Eight, Twelfth Night), and drama (Golden Boy, Seascape, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, Oleanna, A Man for All Seasons, Mauritius, Doubt, Little Women, Dracula, Frozen, Ivanov). The eleven- time Tony Award nominee has won for South Pacific, The Coast of Utopia, Awake and Sing!, The Light in the Piazza, and The Royal Family. Her costumes were seen by a vast television audience in NBC/Universal’s broadcasts of The Sound of Music and Peter Pan.

 

Lyric’s new production of Carousel stars Steven Pasquale as carousel barker Billy Bigelow; Laura Osnes as his true love, millworker Julie Jordan; Jenn Gambatese as Carrie Pipperidge; Matthew Hydzik as Enoch Snow; Denyce Graves as Nettie Fowler; Jarrod Emickas Jigger Craigin; Charlotte d’Amboise as Mrs. Mullin; and Tony Roberts as the Starkeeper. 

 

Carouselis the third Rodgers and Hammerstein musical to be presented as part of Lyric’s American Musical Theater InitiativeThe King and I and South Pacific follow in the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons, respectively. Past productions were Oklahoma! in the 2012-13 season and The Sound of Music in the 2013-14 season.

Lyric’s new production of Carousel and the exhibition “Creating Carousel”honor the 70th anniversary of this iconic American musical, which premiered on April 19,1945.

 

Carousel runs Friday, April 10 through Sunday, May 3, 2015 (26 performances, including one preview matinee and one student matinee) at the Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Dr., Chicago. Tickets start at $29, and are available at lyricopera.org/carousel or at 312-827-5600.  The official press opening for Carousel is Saturday, April 11 at 7pm.

 

The opening-night performance of Carousel will be broadcast on 98.7WFMT and streamed on wfmt.com on Sunday, April 12 at 7:15pm.

Published in BuzzBlog

With so many ways to enjoy springtime in Chicago, The Sound of Music, currently being performed at Lyric Opera of Chicago, should certainly make your list of to dos. With acting heavyweight, Billy Zane, and Broadway star, Jenn Gambatese, leading the way, audience members are treated to a most memorable performance of the Rogers and Hammerstein classic that will have you singing that catchy little “Do Re Mi” days after you’ve seen the show.   

As a general rule for success with this particular musical, it’s safe to say that to truly bring "The Sound of Music" alive on stage, a strong supporting cast is utterly essential, but most important of all, the show requires a vibrant “Maria” who exudes wholesome fun and is convincing as a free spirit. Done and done. Lyric Opera of Chicago's production of “The Sound of Music” has not only put together a brilliant surrounding cast from top to bottom, but has also struck gold with leads Billy Zane as “Captain Von Trapp” and Jenn Gambatese as “Maria Rainer”. Not only are the two vocally right for the roles; their chemistry together is nothing short of magical, adding a very believable element to this timeless story of love for family and country. And, yes, to alleviate any doubt, if any at all – yes, Billy Zane can sing, and quite well at that. Zane especially makes it crystal clear that he’s not just a big Hollywood name used to sell a show during his gripping vocal performance of “Edelweiss”. I should also mention that his acting was right on the mark too, but that should have already been expected. So, in a nutshell, Zane is surprisingly perfect as “Captain Von Trapp”.      

Lyric Opera of Chicago has succeeded with this production and then some.

Gambatese grabs the audience immediately after her opening number, “The Sound of Music”. And though it is not yet clear where this “Maria” will take us, it doesn’t take long to find out. During her next song, “I Have Confidence”, her talents really stand out and her sparkling personality now officially beams throughout the house. At that point, it is apparent she has thoroughly captured the entire crowd.

The seven Von Trapp children are immediately likeable and, like the rest of the cast, more than vocally efficient. Christine Brewer adds a tasty punch as “The Mother Abbess” boasting her incredible vocal range while Edward Hibbert (of Frasier fame) is a sheer delight as “Max Detweiler”. Other standout performances would include Betsy Farrar as “Liesl” and Elizabeth Futral as “Elsa Schraeder”.

The set design is stunning as the audience is taken inside the Abbey then into different areas of the Von Trapp mansion and its courtyard. The set changes are equally impressive. One highlight has the stage seamlessly transformed from the mansion living room into the very festival in which the performing Von Trapp Singers escape from Nazi occupied Austria.

Many productions of “The Sound of Music” have come and gone and some have stood out more than others. This current production is one that stands at the top. A perfect Spring treat or a family night out, "The Sound of Music" at Lyric Opera of Chicago is an unforgettable experience that you can relish over and over again. This is a show that anyone of any age can enjoy.

"The Sound of Music" is being performed at Lyric Opera of Chicago through May 25th. For tickets, performance times and/or more information, visit http://www.lyricopera.org/. 

Published in Theatre Reviews

 

 

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