Opera Warhorses

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Review: Ryan McKinny Stars in Affectionately Mounted “Carousel” – Glimmerglass Festival, July 18, 2014

July 19th, 2014

The 2014 Glimmerglass Festival, as part of the company’s multi-year salute to the American musical, mounted Rodgers’ and Hammerstein’s 1945 classic, “Carousel”.

[Below: Director Charles Newell, edited image, based on a publicity photograph from the Goodman Theater of Chicago.]


The creative team behind the production included two experts on Rodgers’ and Hammerstein’s masterful work, their second effort after the megahit “Oklahoma” – Conductor Doug Peck and Director Charles Newell.

Ryan McKinny’s Billy Bigelow

The musical starred dramatic baritone Ryan McKinny as the bad boy Billy Bigelow, whose good deeds after death lead to his soul’s redemption.

McKinny gave a spirited performance, flirtatious as the barker whose eyes are on Julie Jordan (soprano Andrea Carroll), coy as he courts Julie in their great love duet If I Loved You and aggressive as their financial prospects deteriorate.

(At Glimmerglass, opera singers are encouraged to learn to dance, and McKinny took on a few dance steps with aplomb during the rousing Whaler’s scene with its dancing chorus, as well as in “Carousel’s” penultimate scenes.)

[Below: Ryan McKinny as Billy Bigelow; edited image of a Jessica Kray photograph, courtesy of the Glimmerglass Festival.]


The highlight of a Billy Bigelow performance (and a principal reason why this part is coveted by young baritones) is the Soliloquy, in which Billy, feeling chastened for his bad behavior after learning of Julie’s pregnancy, contemplates what life with his son will be like.

Then, as the thought that his newborn might be a girl dawns upon him, Billy determines to do whatever needs to be done to obtain money to assure his daughter’s security.

McKinny delivered the Soliloquy with the dramatic power and nuance one expects in the operatic performances of this singing actor.

After Billy’s suicide in a robbery gone bad, much of the rest of the second act takes place at the doors of Heaven, where, taking only a few celestial moments, 15 years have passed.

McKinny’s transition from Bigelow’s desparation to celestial redemption is yet another example of McKinny’s acting skills.

In the past year, McKinny, still in his early 30s, has added to his performance repertory the title roles of Wagner’s “Flying Dutchman” [Ryan McKinny, Melody Moore, Jay Hunter Morris Soar in “Flying Dutchman” – Glimmerglass Festival, July 18, 2013] and Verdi’s “Rigoletto” [Dramatic, lyrical and powerful: Ryan McKinny’s Rigoletto Role Debut – Houston Grand Opera, January 24, 2014].

He also took on the role of another “bad boy” – Stanley Kowalski in Previn’s opera [A Theatrically Brilliant “Streetcar Named Desire” Stars Fleming, McKinny, Tappan and Griffey – Los Angeles Opera, May 18, 2014.]

Andrea Carroll’s Julie Jordan

Starring with him was soprano Andrea Carroll as Julie Jordan, the virginal but sexually curious mill-worker.

The mutual attraction to each other has both immediate and long-term consequences for both and, a decade and a half later, for their daughter Louise, who has become something of a social outcast in the small community because of the bad choices of a father she never knew.

[Below: Julie Jordan (Andrea Carroll, left) assures Billy Bigelow (Ryan McKinny, right) of her love; edited image, based on a Karli Cadel photograph, courtesy of the Glimmerglass Festival.]


I had previously reported on Andrea Carroll’s notable appearance as Rosalba, which she is scheduled to repeat at the Kennedy Center [see A Florid, Flowing “Florencia” in Salt Lake City – Utah Opera, January 19, 2013].

Carroll’s Julie and McKinny’s Billy were affecting in the extended scene of their courtship, capped by their elegant singing of If I Loved You.

Other Artists

Two Glimmerglass Young Artists played the second couple of Carrie Pipperidge and Enoch Snow. New York soprano Sharin Apostolou was Carrie and Indiana tenor Joe Shadday was Enoch.

[Below: Sharin Apostolou (left) is Carrie Pipperidge and Joe Shadday (right) is Enoch Snow; edited image, based on a Karli Cadel photograph, courtesy of the Glimmerglass Festival.]


Deborah Nansteel, a former Glimmerglass Young Artist, has had “maid roles” in Francesca Zambello productions of Wagner’s “Flying Dutchman” at the 2013 Glimmerglass Festival and Verdi’s “La Forza del Destino” at the Wshington National Opera.

The role of Nettie is a much juicier assignment, given that she takes the lead in two of “Carousel’s” biggest hits – June is Bustin’ Out All Over and You’ll Never Walk Alone. For both assignments (and her prominent role in the clambake) she was a strong and effective presence.

[Below: Deborah Nansteel is Nettie; edited image, based on a Karli Cadel photograph, courtesy of the Glimmerglass Festival.]


If any of “Carousel’s” characters could be labeled as a villain, the incompetent would-be robber Jigger Craigin comes closest. His bad influence on Billy proves to be a disaster for the Bigelow family.

Texas baritone Ben Edquist played the part with appreciable swagger, creating a vivid (and well sung) impression of the incompetent rogue.

[Below: Jigger Craigin (Ben Edquist, center) participates in the Whaler’s scene; edited image, based on a Karli Cadel photograph, courtesy of the Glimmerglass Festival.]


“Carousel’s” second act includes long surreal episodes in which the spirit of the deceased Billy Bigelow negotiates the terms of his immortal existence with the Starkeeper (character actor Wynn Harmon) and appears on earth to intervene in the life of his daughter, Louise.

These episodes are marked by extraordinary ballet passages, originally choreographed by Agnes DeMille for the 1945 Broadway premiere, and re-choreographed for this production by Daniel Pelzig.

Two Young Artists, with advanced credentials in ballet and modern dance, play the roles of Louise and Carnival Boy.

Florida dancer Carolina M. Villaraos plays Louise. Texas dance Andrew Harper plays Carnival Boy, whose attentions to Louise assure that Louise will inherit her mother’s predilection for a man from the edgy carney world.

[Below: Billy Bigelow (Ryan McKinney, left) watches his daughter Louise (Carolina M Villaraos, in green skirt) dance with the Carnival Boy (Andrew Harper, center, holding Louise) as the Heavenly Friend (Rebecca Finnegan, right) watches; edited image, based on a Karli Cadel photograph, courtesy of the Glimmerglass Festival.]


After enduring prejudicial comments from Enoch Snow’s family, Louise, at her high school graduation, finds satisfaction in the words of Dr Seldon, the family doctor who decries the idea that any person’s future is inhibited by their family’s past.

Billy’s spirit joins Julie and the community in the musical’s finale, a reprise of You’ll Never Walk Alone.

[Below: Julie Jordan Bigelow (Andrea Carroll, left front, in long apron) stands with Billy Bigelow (Ryan McKinny, left front, in suspenders; edited image, based on a Karli Cadel photograph, courtesy of the Glimmerglass Festival.]


Equity actress Rebecca Finnegan played the roles of the bawdy Mrs Mullen (costumed in a bustled red gown) and  Billy Bigelow’s Heavenly Friend (costumed in a bustled white gown.) Equity actor Wynn Harmon played the Starkeeper and Dr Seldon. Equity Actor Drew Taylor was David Bascombe.

Glimmerglass Young Artists filled out the small singing roles. New York tenor Alex Domini was the First Policeman and a Fisherman. Wisconsin soprano Jeni Houser was Arminy and a millworker. Minnesota tenor Andrew Penning was the Second policeman.

Jessica Jahn designed the costumes. Mark McCullough created the lighting design

[Below: the opening tableau of “Carousel”; edited image, based on a Karli Cadel photograph, courtesy of the Glimmerglass Festival.]



This is a carefully prepared production of one of the great American musicals of the 20th century. I strongly recommend it to everyone who loves this art form.

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