Lyric Opera of Chicago

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CAROUSEL by the numbers

Lyric's production of Carousel  is one of the grandest spectacles ever to be seen at the Civic Opera House. Here are just a few of the numbers that make all of the onstage splendor possible. Don't miss your opportunity to see a program that the Chicago Tribune's Chris Jones gave a perfect four stars and says "has the smell of Broadway!" Catch this ride before it leaves Chicago on May 3.

Lyric's production of Carousel  is one of the grandest spectacles ever to be seen at the Civic Opera House. Here are just a few of the numbers that make all of the onstage splendor possible. Don't miss your opportunity to see a program that the Chicago Tribune's Chris Jones gave a perfect four stars and says "has the smell of Broadway!" Catch this ride before it leaves Chicago on May 3.

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Lights in the working carousel that was built especially for this production

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Fiber optic stars. Both the carousel lights and the stars give this production an otherworldly feel. Celebrated Italian visual artist Paolo Ventura is making his theatrical design debut with Carousel

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Fake "puff-puff" cigarettes will be used during the entire course of the run. You're most likely to find them in the hands of Billy Bigelow, Mrs. Mullin, and that ne'er-do-well Jigger Craigin!

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Total costumes in the show, all designed by Tony Award-winner Catherine Zuber. Lyric's wardrobe department has been busy! (To compare, The Sound of Music last season had 130 costumes.)

160

Pairs of shoes. All of those dancers need to hoof in style, fitted with special non-skid soles from Brooks Shoe Repair.

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Wigs in the show. It takes 40 to 60 hours to create each new wig. Laura Osnes, Jenn Gambatese, Denyce Graves, and Charlotte d'Amboise account for 8 of the wigs—they got two each! And it takes 12 members of Lyric's hair and makeup staff to get everyone ready for each show. 

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Ensemble members, which may be a Lyric record! This huge cast of singing actors and dancers includes 14 members of the Lyric Opera Chorus. 

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Musicians in the orchestra, all members (or subs) of the Lyric Opera Orchestra, under the baton of celebrated conductor David Chase.

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Carousel horses. Five are used on the actual carousel and the other six are in the "dream ballet" sequence, choreographed by the amazing Rob Ashford.

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Characters in clown makeup.

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Incredible love stories. Billy Bigelow and Julie Jordan are two tornadoes of passion that collide. Carrie Pipperidge and Enoch Snow have a more practical approach, but are no less in love. 

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Can't-miss experience. Carousel is on stage through May 3!!

 

Photo credits:

  • Carousel production photos credit Robert Kusel and Todd Rosenberg / Lyric Opera of Chicago
  • Carousel behind-the-scenes photos credit Todd Rosenberg / Lyric Opera of Chicago
  • Carousel costume sketches credit Catherine Zuber

 

 

CAROUSEL is the talk of Chicago!

If the rave reviews weren't enough, the acclaimed cast and creative team of Carousel are making their way around Chicago, whether it's on TV or at a Cubs game. Don't miss your chance to see this amazing production. This Carousel must move on May 3!

If the rave reviews weren't enough, the acclaimed cast and creative team of Carousel are making their way around Chicago, whether it's on TV or at a Cubs game. Don't miss your chance to see this amazing production. This Carousel must move on May 3!

The entire cast and director/choreographer Rob Ashford were interviewed on WCIU's "You and Me This Morning" about starting the rehearsal process:

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Jenn Gambatese, who plays the irrepressible Carrie Pipperidge, performed “Mr. Snow” on ABC 7’s  Windy City Live and gave away some tickets to lucky audience members:

ABC 7's Janet Davies interviewed the incomparable Charlotte d'Amboise and Tony Roberts about their illustrious careers and current roles in Carousel:

Mr. and Mrs. Snow—Jenn Gambatese and Matthew Hydzik—went on  WTTW's Chicago Tonight  to talk with host Phil Ponce about the show and performed "When the Children Are Asleep."

 

Matthew also performed another one of Enoch's signature songs, "In a Manner of Speaking," his ode to his plans for a big sardine factory…and a big family:

 

Jarrod Emick, who plays everyone's favorite bad boy Jigger Craigin, sang the National Anthem at the April 14 Cubs game. 

 

Denyce Graves and Matthew Hydzik visited WGN Radio's Andrea Darlas for an in-depth conversation about preparing for Carousel. Tony Roberts also stopped by WGN Radio to talk with Bob Sirott and Marianne Murciano.

Michigan Ave magazine interviewed and photographed the cast of Carousel.

CS magazine interviewed Steven Pasquale about his dream role of Billy Bigelow. 

The Chicago Tribune's Chris Jones interviewed director Rob Ashford about the show and speculated on whether it is Broadway bound. Carousel stars Steven Pasquale and Laura Osnes also recorded a special version of "The Bench Scene" for the Tribune's Theater Loop Showcase video series

Hedy Weiss of the Chicago Sun-Times talked with Ashford and stars Steven Pasquale and Laura Osnes.

Tony Roberts also reflected on his career and talked about his upcoming memoir in this profile in the Chicago Sun-Times.

Photo credits:
  • Steven Pasquale in CS magazine
  • Jarrod Emick performs at Wrigley Field
  • Laura Osnes, Jenn Gambatese, and Steven Pasquale in Michigan Ave
  • Jenn Gambatese and Matthew Hydzik on Chicago Tonight
 

Critics can’t get enough of CAROUSEL

Lyric's new production of Carousel is one of the most celebrated productions of the year. It's the toast of Chicago…and could it be the toast of New York? Hear what the critics have to say about this stunning production that's worthy of Broadway. Don't miss your chance to take a ride on this Carousel before it closes on May 3. 

Lyric's new production of Carousel  is one of the most celebrated productions of the year. It's the toast of Chicago…and could it be the toast of New York? Hear what the critics have to say about this stunning production that's worthy of Broadway. Don't miss your chance to take a ride on this Carousel before it closes on May 3. 

 

★★★★ - Chicago Tribune

"A chance to hear this cherished score delivered with such ample vocal and musical resources should not be missed by anyone who remains entranced by the unique appeal of the great Broadway musicals." - The New York Times

"profoundly moving" - Chicago Tribune

"by far the best of the opera company's annual spring forays into the beloved Rodgers and Hammerstein canon." - Chicago Tribune

"Musically and visually, Lyric's Carousel is an unabashed pleasure…"
- Time Out Chicago

"This really is a gorgeous new production....Aside from the huge vocal performances by the likes of Laura Osnes, Steven Pasquale, and Denyce Graves, what really impresses here is the richness of the storytelling, and more important yet, the depth of the emotional connection between Julie Jordan and her no-good louse of a husband, Billy Bigelow. This is a world-class Carousel, spinning right here in Chicago." -  CBS 2

"director/choreographer Rob Ashford's seductive, unsentimental yet darkly compelling production...comes about as close to perfect as it gets." - Daily Herald

"...it’s a familiar tale of love, loss and forgiveness that has found its way into our hearts and Lyric’s production only affixes it further." - Make It Better

"… in bold and creative ways, this 'Carousel' … reaches literally for the stars and frequently attains them, bringing innovate ideas and the personnel to implement them to a production that is huge, audaciously daring, and bracingly human. And yes, one that is immediately legendary." - Broadway World

"under Rob Ashford's sublime direction, Lyric Opera of Chicago's production is a Carousel for the ages. " - Huffington Post

Praise for "the grandeur of the massive sets, the spectacle of the dances... and the sheer power of a cast of five dozen insanely talented folks walking an expansive stage, telling a timeless tale while singing songs loved by generations of Americans." - Broadway World

"[Ashford's] vision offers a grandly majestic, operatic sweep overflowing with wonderful characters and inventive, athletic choreography." - Chicago Theatre Review

"Come to the 'Carousel.' You need to get your ticket punched, to catch a ride on your very own life, and to do so in the most unforgettable way you can imagine. And you'll never walk alone." - Broadway World

"Lyric's Carousel is beautiful and heart melting" - Chicago Parent

"stunning and breathtaking from start to finish" - Around the Town Chicago

Carousel is "as near perfect as possible" - Chicago Critic

"Lyric Opera of Chicago is on a roll with its scintillating new production of the iconic 1945 musical 'Carousel.'" - Lake County Journal

The dream cast

"Stacked with Broadway stars and cast with uncommon consistency and shrewdness, Ashford's production appears directed with Broadway in mind and, well, New York should be so lucky." - Chicago Tribune

"The results are impressive: The production is as beautifully sung — and beautifully played, by the Lyric orchestra under the conductor David Chase — as anything on Broadway right now" - The New York Times

"Steven Pasquale and Laura Osnes are delivering career-defining star turns as doomed lovers Billy Bigelow and Julie Jordan.…The pairing…already feels like a legendary Broadway coupling. Now someone just needs to actually get them on Broadway. Soon, please." - Broadway.com 

Steven Pasquale "brings the first act to an electrifying climax with his powerful rendering of 'Soliloquy'" - The New York Times

Steven Pasquale "has it all going on" - Chicago Tribune

"Pasquale brings a Brando-esque quality to Billy" - Chicago Sun-Times

"Pasquale's take on Billy's eight-minute solo 'Soliloquy' is downright transcendent"
- Time Out Chicago

Steven Pasquale gives "a breathtaking turn as a handsome young punk you want to root for in spite of yourself" - Chicago on the Aisle

"Laura Osnes is a superb Julie—at once tough and fragile, independent and vulnerable." - Chicago Reader

Laura Osnes "offers a very striking window into Julie's determination to separate from her peers, manifest vocally through the exciting crescendo she constructs for such famous lyrics as 'Round in circles I'd go,' where the resilience in the musical swell undermines the lyrical expression of doubt" - Chicago Tribune

"Osnes' delicacy, vulnerability and spine are lovely throughout"
 - Chicago Sun-Times

"Osnes…gives us a Julie Jordan that is fragile and wounded even as she's independent." - Talkin' Broadway

Jenn Gambatese "who made a playful Maria in Lyric's Sound of Music last spring, is an effusive delight as Julie's love-drunk friend Carrie Pipperidge"
- Time Out Chicago

Matthew Hydzik's "soaring voice and determined spirit are spot-on"
 - Chicago Sun-Times 

Denyce Graves is "spectacular" - Chicago Tribune

Jarrod Emick "makes bad-boy Jigger Craigin another one of his characterizations that is both a dynamite singer and an imposing physical presence."
 - Broadway World

Charlotte d'Amboise is "an extraordinary dancer and actor whose every move's a marvel" - Chicago on the Aisle 

Tony Roberts gives "an avuncular but unsentimental turn as the Starkeeper" - Chicago Tribune

The breathtaking ballet 

"Ashford's staging of the Act II ballet is an assured thrill" - Time Out Chicago

"Among the production's most glorious scenes is the second act ballet"
- Chicago Sun-Times

"Ashford's choreography here is suffused with deep emotional intensity, and Simon dances so beautifully, the quality of her acting in the crucial final encounter with her father is a bonus, but a crucial one all the same." - Chicago Tribune

"Ashford's version is more like a fever dream for Billy, who walks through its action and can't quite believe the horrors that appear before him. …what a creative way to conceive of the entire sequence!" - Broadway World

Ashford "has intensified the role of ballet in the show...drama, song, orchestral music, dance, and design are fused into a total theater experience." - Chicago Reader

"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." - Chicago-Splash.com 

The transcendent music 

"With its magnificent revival of 'Carousel,' Lyric Opera of Chicago has accomplished what few other theaters ever will, which is to showcase the grand and glorious score by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein with a full complement of strings, woodwinds and brass most theatergoers are unlikely to hear outside an opera house or symphony hall." - Daily Herald

"it is wonderful to hear Rodgers's rich score delivered by an opera-company chorus and orchestra under David Chase's baton." - Chicago Reader

"[U]nder David Chase's assured baton, the Lyric's orchestra mines all the magic in this lilting score. " - Huffington Post

"The music is divine" - Around the Town Chicago

"This Carousel employs a lush 37-piece orchestra and a raft of ensemble singers, rendering Rodgers's rich score with exquisite care" - Time Out Chicago

The stunning visuals 

"[The] hypnotic production design by Paolo Ventura elevates the dreamlike and otherworldly aspects of this heartbreaking love story." - Huffington Post

"the design from the Italian artist Paolo Ventura … is strikingly lean, dominated by miniaturized vistas that feel more picayune European than puritan New England, and suggesting, as profoundly and existentially as any of the scores of productions of this work I've seen, the transitory nature of any happiness you can find at a traveling carnival in the company of one who barks for a living." - Chicago Tribune

"The set by Paolo Ventura is amazingly real with the opening number's actual carousel appearing as if it was transported from a museum to the stage on Wacker Drive." - Around the Town Chicago

"Another risk for Ashford that pays off is the contribution of Paolo Ventura, an artist and photographer making his theatrical debut as set designer. His settings have a water-color feel reminiscent of some of Edward Hopper's work."
- Talkin' Broadway 

"Tony Award-winning costume and lighting designers Catherine Zuber and Neil Austin work with a variety of silhouettes and colors to highlight and deepen the visual attention." - Broadway World

Don't wait - Carousel will be gone in less than three weeks! 
This limited-engagement musical runs only through May 3. BUY YOUR TICKETS today!

 

Photo credits:

  • Carousel production photos credit Todd Rosenberg and Robert Kusel for Lyric Opera of Chicago
 

Behind the music with CAROUSEL conductor David Chase

Acclaimed Broadway conductor David Chase makes his Lyric debut leading the amazing cast, orchestra, and chorus in the brand-new production of Carousel. Read on to learn more about his long history with director/choreographer Rob Ashford, his circuitous path to conducting, and how his baton once flew out of his hand mid-performance!

Acclaimed Broadway conductor David Chase makes his Lyric debut leading the amazing cast, orchestra, and chorus in the brand-new production of Carousel. Chase was nominated for an Emmy for his music direction of NBC's The Sound of Music Live and has been music director or supervisor for countless musicals that have been hits with audiences and critics alike, including  Nice Work if You Can Get It, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Billy Elliot, The Pajama Game, Flower Drum Song, The Music Man, Side Show, Little Me, and Damn Yankees.  

He took some time out of the busy rehearsal process to answer questions a few days before the April 10 opening. Read on to learn more about his long history with director/choreographer Rob Ashford, his circuitous path to conducting, and how his baton once flew out of his hand mid-performance, only to be returned to him by the audience!

You actually have a degree in biology from Harvardhow did you get interested in music and conducting more specifically? 

I took piano lessons as a kid.  Hated every minute of it—the practicing, anyway.  But I always loved playing, and that led to an interest in the power of music as an emotional conduit for story-telling. In high school I became very involved—onstage and off— in the Drama Department where I had an amazingly inspiring teacher, Joan Bedinger.  In college, I became involved in the Hasty Pudding Theatricals, both as a performer and writer, and that led to an interest in arranging and the way that musical shows are structured. I knew fairly quickly that I didn't want to spend my life doing medicine, but I loved the cathartic power of music, and so continued to pursue it in various forms—first as an accompanist, then eventually as an arranger and music director.  

I had never had a particular interest in conducting, but in 1993 I was working with the brilliantly talented James Raitt (nephew of original Carousel star John Raitt) when he was offered the position of music director for the Broadway revival of Damn Yankees (eventually to star Jarrod Emick and Charlotte d'Amboise). James was a huge supporter of young musicians, and he offered me the position of associate conductor on the show with the very frank statement that he thought I should be a conductor and that he himself didn't have long to live. The show opened in March of 1994 and James died of AIDS in April. I have been music director and/or arranger on 30 Broadway productions since then, and for every single performance I've ever conducted, I have used his baton.  

 
Jarrod Emick and Bebe Neuwirth in Damn Yankees on Broadway

You have been a frequent collaborator with Rob Ashford on How to Succeed… and the NBC live musicals, among others - can you talk about your partnership and why it's so gratifying to work with him? 

I've known Rob since 1990. I had just moved to New York and was tapped to play rehearsals for the new Radio City Spring Spectacular. Rob was one of the dancers in the ensemble. We honestly can't remember if we ever talked then! But our paths kept crossing—a few years later, Rob was the first replacement in the Crazy For You, where my wife was an original cast member. Then in 1999 we worked with Kathleen Marshall on Kiss Me, Kate—me as dance arranger and Rob as associate choreographer—and had a grand time. That led to Rob asking me to work with him on his first choreography assignment, Thoroughly Modern Millie. We've done numerous shows since then and we've developed an amazing shorthand. We both value truthful story-telling above all else, and have a very complementary understanding of the ability of music and movement to further that story-telling. There's an implicit trust to the way we work together, and an immediate ease. I also know that he will always have a strong point of view when approaching a piece of theater, and to me that's the most important factor in shaping something dramatically. It's deeply gratifying to know that you're working towards the same goal and Rob keeps everyone moving forward with clarity.  

 
Thoroughly Modern Millie on Broadway starring Sutton Foster

Can you talk a little bit about the cast assembled for the show, and what strengths they bring to the production vocally?

I'm very proud of this cast, and how beautifully they bridge the world between the musical theater and the opera world. They're all first rate actors as well as singers, and that is vitally important to the world of Carousel, which is quite the intimate dramatic play set against the backdrop of huge meditations on the nature of community, salvation, and self-respect. I've known Laura since she auditioned for (and eventually won) the reality TV show, You're the One That I Want, and I'm constantly astonished by the depths of her talent. I've always known her to be a first-rate musician with a crystal-clear sound (she's often been called the modern-day Julie Andrews, and for good reason), and I'm thrilled to see how beautifully she's handling the darker complexities of Julie Jordan. I've known Jarrod and Charlotte for over 20 years and they're both brilliant and always fascinating to watch. I haven't worked with Steven, Matt or Jenn before (Matt did the recent revival of Side Show on Broadway whereas I did the original in 1997), but I'm thrilled to get to do so here. Steven is an incredible musician—like me, untrained—and brings a rawness to his performance that's very exciting. I've mostly known of Matt's pop side, and was very happy to discover that he has a true legit voice. And it's great that Jenn has played the role before in a much smaller setting (Goodspeed Opera House) and now gets to bring it to a much larger stage.

 
Carousel cast in rehearsal; clockwise from top left: Charlotte d'Amboise and Jarrod Emick; Jenn Gambatese and Laura Osnes; Jenn Gambatese and Matthew Hydzik; Tony Roberts and Steve Pasquale

How is the rehearsal process going so far? For those who might not be familiar, can you take us through the steps of how you musically prepare such a huge ensemble?

Rehearsals have gone well; although we all wish we had more time to develop the details! Maestro Black [Lyric's chorus master Michael Black]  has done an amazing job of preparing the ensemble, and my focus has been to help them have a point of view.  Written music, like any written language, is a highly inexact record of an aural experience. There's no way to sing notes and lyrics without knowing why they're being sung:  by whom and to whom, and to what end. Yes, we want lovely sounds and well-shaped vowels and clean cut-offs, but more than anything else, we want the music to do what only music can do: connect us to an ineffable emotional response. And yes, that comes from rehearsing, and it comes from a common understanding of the reasons for why we sing when we do. Ultimately, that's as important if not more important than the simple learning of the notes and words.  

 
The ensemble for Carousel in staging (top) and dress rehearsal (bottom)

What makes the music of Carousel  so special? Where do you think it fits in the Rodgers & Hammerstein canon?

TIME magazine named Carousel the greatest musical of the 20th century, and for good reason. It was, especially in its time, an incredibly audacious undertaking, arguably more thematically aligned to grand opera in its musical ambitions, but wholly and fully grounded in the American musical theater traditions in its focus on the drama that plays out in the lives of these two seemingly insignificant people. Oklahoma! was a huge achievement for Rodgers and Hammerstein. It was hailed as the first musical drama where every element of the show—book, music, lyrics, dance, design—served the greater goal of telling the story. And so their next project, Carousel, had to push the boundaries even further. The musical sequence that leads to "If I Loved You" is rightly regarded as one of the greatest achievements in writing for the musical theater, and "Soliloquy," Billy's meditation on impending fatherhood, is undeniably the closest thing to a true aria in the musical theater canon. And R&H put these huge musical gestures into the mouths of a simple factory girl and a rough and uneducated carnival barker as if to let us know that their hearts are equally huge, equally full of music, equally deserving of attention as the princes and aristocrats of grand opera. And we haven't even touched on the simple power of "You'll Never Walk Alone" or the immediate visceral joys of "June is Bustin' Out All Over" and "Real Nice Clambake."

If you had to pick just one, what is your absolute favorite moment in Carousel?

I don't know yet. Ask me again in a few weeks! There is one staging moment that is new to this production that leaves me in awe of the power of live theater.  But I won't tell you what it is.

What has been the most interesting, hilarious, or memorable moment from your career so far? 

Wow. Don't know that I can answer that. Here's a minor one: conducting a Broadway performance in the mid-nineties when my baton flew out of my hand and into the audience. About three songs later, it reappeared, having been passed back from seat to seat. Then, reading about it 10 years later in an online blog where someone was recounting the weirdest moment they'd ever experienced in the theater when the conductor's baton flew out of his hand and landed in their lap.  

One unforgettable moment was the extended audience applause before the downbeat of the final performance of the original Side Show. It seemed to last forever, and was a deeply moving recognition of the ephemeral nature of this business.

While you're in rehearsals for Carousel, you're also the music supervisor  for Finding Neverland, which after several pre-Broadway productions is transferring this month. How do you balance multiple major projects like this at once?

I have no idea. If I thought about it too much, I'd probably crumple up into a little ball.  You never plan for schedules to collide, but sometimes they do. Honestly, though, the key is being passionate and fully committed to every project, and the work gets done.  And it's important to have excellent people working with me—I couldn't have done both projects without the incredible talents of Valerie Maze, associate conductor of Carousel, and Mary-Mitchell Campbell, the music director of Finding Neverland.

What have you enjoyed most about being in Chicago for Carousel? Any restaurants, museums, or other attractions that you have experienced that you'd want to recommend?

Well, I have to admit that I haven't had time yet to experience Chicago, but one thing that has struck me about this city is the way that it struts. The architecture is monumental in scope, and is  bursting with civic pride. That's exciting.  

Photo credits:

  • David Chase photo credit Todd Rosenberg / Lyric Opera of Chicago
  • Damn Yankees on Broadway
  • Thoroughly Modern Millie on Broadway
  • Carousel rehearsal and production photos credit Todd Rosenberg / Lyric Opera of Chicago

 

 

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