Once again, the Villanova Student Musical Theater (VSMT) left audiences speechless after their performance of “Carousel” last weekend. From April 22-24, VSMT performed at the Court Theater at the John and Joan Mullen Center for the Performing Arts.
In the fall, VSMT wowed the Villanova community with their performance of “Legally Blonde.” Earlier this semester, cast and crew did nothing less in his stellar performance of “Assassins.” Therefore, it was no surprise that “Carousel” was another fan favorite.
“Carousel” was adapted from Ferenc Molnar’s 1909 play “Liliom”. The story is set on the New England coast and tells the story of carnival barker Billy Bigelow (played by Cristian Rodriguez) and workwoman Julie Jordan (played by Emily Sgroi), who meet and fall in love. However, their marriage ends up costing them both their jobs. Billy’s desperation makes him violent towards those he loves and drives him to break the law to support his family. After Billy runs into con artist Jigger Craigin (played by sophomore Matthew Tomlinson), he ends up getting caught in an armed robbery and commits suicide. Fifteen years later, Billy is allowed to return to earth for a day. That day, he meets his daughter, whom he has never known. Louise (played by junior Olivia Pistella) is a very lonely teenager, as her father’s reputation haunted her throughout her young life. Yet Billy is able to instill in both Louise and Julie a sense of hope. Clearly, “Carousel” is a classic American musical that explores human frailty and the power of forgiveness, according to stageagent.com.
The music and lyrics for the show were written by the iconic Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein. The musical features some of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s most beloved tunes, including “If I Loved You”, “June Is Bustin’ Out All Over”, and “You’ll Never Walk Alone”. Sophomore Minh-Chau Scott, the music director of “Carousel,” sprung from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s talent as she taught music to the cast and led the pit orchestra.
“Rodgers and Hammerstein have created the most exquisite score with beautiful lyrics,” Scott said. “I’m so glad doing this show gave me the opportunity to get to know him.”
Matthew Clay was hired as director of “Carousel”. VSMT students admired Clay and his expertise.
“Working one-on-one with our director Matt Clay and investigating the little moments and details of the show was one of my favorite things about the rehearsal process,” said Rodriguez, who played Billy Bigelow.
VSMT also hired choreographer Samantha Kuhl, whose work on the show was also highly praised. Freshman Jack Hobart, stage manager of “Carousel,” said his favorite memory from rehearsals was when the cast finished their first part of the Carousel Waltz.
“I’ve always loved seeing productions where characters introduce themselves through choreography,” Hobart said. “The cast did a fantastic job of using this dance to bring the audience into the world of ‘Carousel’.”
The hard work and dedication of cast and crew during rehearsals is what makes VSMT productions so professional.
“The rehearsals were a lot of work, but I loved being able to re-enact all the scenes and see the show come to life. said senior Emily Sgroi, who played Julie Jordan.
Rodriguez agreed that the rehearsals were difficult, but also added: “I learned a lot and had a lot of fun working with this company.
Plus, watching the show come to life behind the scenes was just as special.
“This cast has been an absolute joy to work with” Minh Chau Scott mentioned. “Dancing and blocking rehearsals is such a fascinating thing to watch from across the table. I got to watch everyone make all these tiny-but-wonderful character choices that I might not have seen if I had been in the series.
After VSMT’s first performance on Friday night, audiences loved the show and its cast.
“I’m grateful to have had the chance to see ‘Carousel,'” said sophomore Jennifer McMahon. “As always, VSMT did a great job. The choreography and singing were fantastic. I was so captivated by the show that I didn’t want it to end.
Freshman Kaleigh Brendle summed up “Carousel’s” scope of excellence perfectly.
“There’s something authentic and special about a show that features a pit band,” Brendle said. “All of the incredible music is created right in front of you, the instrumentalists excelling in their craft and the singers performing beautifully. It was a wonderful production, with an inspiring message of hope and courage throughout.
The Villanova Student Musical Theater loved performing “Carousel” because they believe the show truly had something for everyone.
“There are long dance numbers, pages of dialogue and of course, lots of songs for the audience to enjoy,” Hobart said. “Also, I think as a management team we worked to incorporate modern elements into a show set in the 1870s, making the production more meaningful for a wider audience.
“It was an honor to see the cast and crew share this production and their hard work with the Villanova community this weekend.”