The opera company performed two triumphant shows last weekend to packed audiences
SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY — At 2 p.m. on both Saturday, Oct. 15, and Sunday, Oct. 16, Opera San Luis Obispo (OperaSLO) performed Rogers & Hammerstein’s “Carousel” for packed houses at the Harold Miossi Hall Performing Arts Center on the Cal Poly campus. The company was originally supposed to perform the famous musical this year on Mother’s Day Weekend, but after a COVID-19 outbreak in the cast, that version of the show never came to fruition in front of an audience.
“It was really sad for us all, and we weren’t quite sure right away if it was going to get remounted, but then we got, I mean, we each got phone calls from our director Zach [Johnson] and got word that it was going to happen,” said Amy Goymerac, who played Carousel’s leading lady, Julie Jordan. “It’s the perfect redemption story, or the best way to have closure really on all of that was to do the show again.”
While many things stayed the same between productions, a large majority of the cast changed over the year because of actors landing other roles and other conflicts. The new cast began rehearsals on Oct. 2, just 13 days before the show went live.
“What we ended up creating was a different show. It was a different show because it was different people. Different energy, different perspectives on the characters, and live art is never the same twice,” added Goymerac.
Normally, OperaSLO would have performed an opera in October, but due to “Carousel’s” cancellation earlier this year, the group filled its opera slot with something akin to a remount of the show.
“It’s been a really interesting process because it is kind of a remount, but it’s also not at the same time since we didn’t get to finish it [in May],” stated Stage Director Zach Johnson. “We also started with one group of people. We thought we had 85 percent of the same actors coming back, but by the time we got to opening, we had 85 percent new people involved in the show.”
The extremely talented “Carousel” cast was a mix of local performers from the Central Coast and actors and musicians from all over the United States. To cast the show, OperaSLO held auditions in both San Luis Obispo and Los Angeles.
“The locals that are present really do represent the finest artists that are in our community. It’s really exciting,” added Brian Asher Alhadeff, OperaSLO’s general director and conductor.
Known for performing musicals from the golden era of the ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s, OperaSLO opted to have its production of Rogers & Hammerstein’s “Carousel” pay homage to the original 1945 version of the musical. “Carousel” opened on Broadway on April 19, 1945, and while many thought that a musical reimagining of Ferenc Molnar’s 1909 play “Liliom” would be too dark for Broadway, “Carousel” proved them wrong by running for 890 shows during its first run.
“It’s really exciting to see this size of a production return to San Luis Obispo,” Alhadeff said. “This is the largest local production that’s happened since COVID started. We’ve got over, probably, like 160 people associated between the orchestra, the cast, the choruses, the stage, the costume, just the whole crew behind it. It’s just massive.”
Atascadero News/Paso Robles Press was invited to Sunday’s performance of the show. The production was magnificent, from the glorious sets and costumes to the live orchestra and every talented actor on stage. The performance presented the audience with the tale of Billy Bigelow (played by Keegan Rlojas) and Julie Jordan (played by Goymerac), and their messy love story turned tragedy.
“What drew me to this production of ‘Carousel’ was just the opportunity to tell this story and sing this beautiful score again,” Rlojas said. “This is my second time in the role of Billy Bigelow, and it’s always a joy being able to step into the shoes of this troubled soul. Definitely a challenge.”
OperaSLO’s “Carousel” featured amazing acting, dancing, and vocal performances from the ensemble cast and lead performances by Ally King as Julie’s friend Carrie Pepperidge, Michell Hardy as Carrie’s intended Enoch Snow, Karen Dunn as Nettie Fowler, Ramon Garcia as Billy’s buddy Jigger Craigin, Kelly Fitzgerald as Mrs. Mullin, Mike Suddarth as The Starkeeper/Dr. Seldon, Eva Alhadeff as Enoch Snow’s daughter, and Anna Dreslinski-Cooke as Billy and Julie’s daughter Louise.
“I love the piece. I love ‘Carousel’ because it is that classic style of musical theater with a beautiful dream ballet,” said choreographer Andrew Silvaggio of Louise’s ballet with The Dream Barker danced by Lester Gonzalez. “I think that is something that is missing in contemporary musical theater. I love musicals where there is nothing but dance to these beautiful pieces of music with their sweeping melodies.”
Known for their melodic and beautiful music, “Carousel” is a fine display of what Rogers & Hammerstein gave to the world of musical theater, and the orchestra and cast of the show gave the audience a performance of the score to remember.
“One of my favorite memories will truly be the finale number on closing night. Lots of emotions — REAL emotions — and seeing how vulnerable everyone was on stage brought me to tears,” Rlojas said. “I’ll remember that moment for the rest of my life.”