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Arts at ASU Brings ‘Best Musical’ to Modular Theatre

February 22, 2010

“Carousel,” chosen by Time Magazine as the best musical of the 20th Century, is coming to the stage at Angelo State University beginning March 3.

Performances will be at 8 p.m. March 3-6 and 10-13 in the ASU Modular Theatre, with a matinee at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 7. Tickets are $8 for the general public, $4 for non-ASU students and $3 for ASU students. Admission is free for Arts at ASU subscribers and ASU activity card holders. The Modular Theatre is located in the Carr Education-Fine Arts Building, 2602 Dena Drive.

The beloved play, written by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, changed the face of American musical theater by integrating elements of drama, music and dance as never before. The play debuted on Broadway in 1945 and ran for 890 performances with revivals continuing today.

Based on Ferenc Molnar’s 1909 play “Liliom,” the story revolves around late-19th century carnival barker, Billy Bigelow, a swaggering gadfly who captivates and marries naive millworker, Julie Jordan. He loses his job, learns that Julie is pregnant and in desperation, agrees to be an accomplice in a robbery. Caught in the act and facing the certainty of prison, he takes his own life and is sent “up there.”

Fifteen years later, Billy is allowed to return to Earth for one day, and he encounters the daughter he never knew. She is a lonely, friendless teenager, her father’s reputation as a thief and bully having haunted her throughout her young life. Billy instills in both his child and her mother a sense of hope and dignity, a dramatic testimony to the power of love. Of all the shows they created, “Carousel” was Rodgers’ and Hammerstein’s favorite.

“The show itself just has a lot of neat stuff,” said Dr. Bill Doll, director of the University Theatre. “We may or may not know the titles of the music, but people recognize ‘If I Loved You,’ ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ and ‘Soliloquy.’”

The cast is larger than most with 24 members, including local children and 82-year-old San Angeloan Bill Reynolds, a retired actor, singer, letter carrier and public school teacher with much time acting and singing to his credit.

Reynolds participated in the first revival of “Carousel” in 1953 at the New York City Center after a stint with the chorus of the New York City Opera Company. He will play two roles in the ASU production, the Starkeeper and Dr. Seldin.

Guest director is San Angeloan Shaun Yates, who graduated from San Angelo Central High School in 2000 and from ASU in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in drama.

While at ASU, Yates performed in “West Side Story.” After a stint in New York working behind the scenes at Theater Row and The Lincoln Center, Yates returned to Texas where he joined Texas Family Musicals. He also performed in several productions at the Northern Lights Playhouse in Wisconsin.

Yates’ decision to take on his first directorial role wasn’t difficult, even though the ASU production is quite demanding.

“It was too good to be true to come back to ASU,” Yates said. “When I officially got the job, I looked back at how directors handled past shows and pulled from their experiences, did a compilation of how I wanted things to run, and it’s working out pretty well.”

Of the production, Doll said, “We are going to have some set pieces, but we are really doing a unit set for a work that’s typically done with multiple settings. We accomplish that with a big, circular playing space and trying to get the feel through that space of a carousel shape and colors.”

Doll chose “Carousel” because of his love for the music and because he has never seen the show, a guiding influence to his production choices.

Freshman Joe Zimmerman, performing in his third musical, will play Billy Bigelow. Hillary Shurtleff, a junior who grew up in San Angelo and began theater in the ninth grade, will play Julie Jordan.

Eldra Sanford will produce all of “Carousel’s” period costumes, while Matt Smith will serve as technical director and Dr. Scott Rains from the Art and Music Department will direct the music.

Tickets go on sale Monday, Feb. 22, in the ASU box office, which is open 2-6 p.m. weekdays in the Carr Education-Fine Arts Building. Call 942-2000 for reservations.

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For more information on the production and cast, contact Arts at ASU at 942-2146.

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