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July 17, 2014

'Carousel' brings classic to area stage

Having opened on July 12, on what would have been the 109th birthday of Oscar Hammerstein II, The Glimmerglass Festival’s production of “Carousel” uses festival veterans, as well as those working at Glimmerglass for the first time, to stage one of the most iconic of American musicals.

Written and composed by the legendary duo of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, “Carousel” tells the story of Billy Bigelow, a carousel barker living in a 19th century fishing village and mill town in Maine. Plagued by his circumstances and his temper, Bigelow struggles to come to grips with his own demons and make a life for himself with Julie, the woman he loves.

Class, love, parenthood, domestic abuse and spirituality are just some of the subjects “Carousel” tackles. Indeed composer Stephen Sondheim once described “Carousel” as being “about life and death.” The show also features such well known songs as “If I Loved You,” and “June Is Bustin’ Out All Over,” “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”

Three of the principal people responsible for bringing “Carousel,” to the Glimmerglass stage are the production’s director, Charles Newell, its conductor, Doug Peck, and its costume designer, Jessica Jahn.

Newell is the longtime artistic director of the Court Theater in Chicago, where he has directed more than 50 productions. This, however, is his first time working with The Glimmerglass Festival. Despite coming from a musical theater and not an opera background, Newell has worked with other opera companies in the past. His description of his time at Glimmerglass, however, was particularly positive.

“I absolutely love working with Glimmerglass,” said Newell, “This experience with Glimmerglass is really the most fulfilling experience I’ve had working in the opera world.”

While Newell may be a newcomer to The Glimmerglass Festival, he is no stranger to “Carousel,” as the Glimmerglass production marks the third time he has directed this work.

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