Wildcats perform in unique take on ‘Carousel’


Source: Brad Trent via Lyric Opera of Chicago

Steven Pasquale and Laura Osnes star in “Carousel” at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. A number of Northwestern students and alumni are involved with the production as well.

Amanda Svachula, Assistant A&E Editor


During the week, instead of heading to Norris or the library after class, Communication sophomore Rosie Jo Neddy heads to eight hour rehearsals at the ornate, historic Civic Opera House in downtown Chicago to bring the dark tale of “Carousel” to life through song and dance.

Neddy is one of seven Northwestern students and alumni who will perform in the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s new production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Carousel” in the upcoming weeks. 

“I expect the opening to be a big moment,” Neddy said. “To stand on the Civic Opera Stage is an experience in itself. It’s a big ‘wow’ thing. In the nerdiest way, it’s super exciting and inspiring.”

The performers have been rehearsing for the show, which runs April 10 to May 3, for only a few weeks. 

“It’s kind of a tragic love story,” said ensemble member Josh Kohane (Communication ‘14). “It’s two people who think they don’t really deserve love and then they find each other.”

The musical is filled with twists and turns and features several controversial issues. It also created contention, at times, for how it exhibits violence in marriage.

“A lot of people have problems with ‘Carousel’ because (domestic violence) is not directly addressed,” Kohane said. “The problem isn’t solved at the end of the play. But the way that we’re approaching it is that it shines a negative light on it.”

This version of “Carousel” is a bit different than the original: the work takes place during the difficult times of the Great Depression instead of the late 1800s.

“The show ‘Carousel’ is inherently very dark,” said ensemble member Will Skrip (Communication ‘11). “The importance of the story is to tell it and lay out these dark themes and push the darkness, but at the end of that there is hope and optimism.”

Instead of a traditional set designer, the set was created by a visual artist, which added to the scale of a show.

“It’s going to be incredibly beautiful and epic,” Skrip said. “We have an operating carousel that rotates on stage and that’s just in the first couple minutes of the show. When you look at the set its almost like two-dimensional because its supposed to reflect the still-life feel of the artists work.”

Directed and choreographed by Rob Ashford, nwho choreographed the 87th Academy Awards, “Carousel” will be performed in its original form at full force with a complete orchestra and chorus. Neddy described the essence of the show as a mixture of reality and fantasy.

“The thing with ‘Carousel’ is that it goes even farther than the normal musical on a spectrum toward fantasy,” she said. “There’s a scene where the leading man talks to the guy who keeps the gates of heaven. It kind of literally leaves the real world.”

NU prepared its students and alumni in the cast for a larger-scale production by offering them many opportunities to gain theater experience, Skrip said.

“Northwestern is great because it affords us a lot of opportunities to perform and also to participate in theater in a ton of capacities,” he said. “Having the opportunity to learn a lot of shows is all really important to get you prepared for the real world where things move really quickly.”

Neddy said she is looking forward to her adult stage debut performing in a professional production where modernity meets history.

“My favorite part about the musical, ‘Carousel,’ is the sense of history I feel in performing it, as it was such an influential piece in the course of musical theater history,” she said. “It addresses really dark issues which I think laid the path for today for musicals to discuss dark issues. To be performing that musical is really inspiring and feels like an honor.”

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