Musical theater is much more of a challenge to Janice Walz than a standard concert performance. It’s also a lot more fun.
“I love being on stage,” said Walz, a long-time soprano with the Octavo Singers who is playing Nettie Fowler in the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic “Carousel,” beginning Friday night at 8 at the Schenectady Light Opera Company. “You have to be very well-prepared when you’re in a play as opposed to a concert. You have all this stuff going on around you, but you still can’t take your mind off what you’re doing, and the lyrics. You don’t want to forget the words.”
There’s little chance of that happening with Walz. A resident of Scotia for 40 years, she’s been singing in front of people her whole life, and her big number in “Carousel” is an American musical theater anthem you’re sure to be familiar with even if you’ve never heard of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II.
“I get to sing ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone,’ and it really is a thrill,” said Walz. “I’ve never sung this song before, never in concert, and certainly never under these kind of dramatic circumstances. You really have to feel it, but without letting the emotions actually affect your performance. Vocally, it’s not a problem for me. My only worry is putting the emotion into it that it deserves, because you want the audience to weep, but at the same time you don’t want to oversing it.”
WHERE: Schenectady Light Opera Company, 427 Franklin St., Schenectady
WHEN: 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m., Sunday; 8 p.m. May 19-21; 2 p.m., May 22
HOW MUCH: $28-$18
MORE INFO: 1-877-350-7378 or www.sloctheater.org
Nettie is Julie Jordan’s cousin, an older woman who runs a spa in a small fishing town along the coast of Maine. Julie, played by Amy Shake, is the female lead; Shawn Hahn plays her love interest, Billy Bigelow. Along with “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” the other two signature songs from the show are “If I Loved You” and “June is Bustin’ Out All Over.”
“I’ve grown up listening to Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals,” said Walz. “I could probably put down their songbook and sing every song in it.”
For Gazette theater writer Matthew G. Moross’ review of this show, click here.
As much as she loves the theater, she has spent most of her adult life singing in concert with the Octavo Singers. With a family and a job, play rehearsals were just too time-consuming.
“I didn’t do anything in the theater for probably 30 years,” she said. “Before I had kids and before I had a full-time job, I did a few things with the Schenectady Civic Players and the Schenectady Light Opera Company . Now that I’m retired, it’s a lot easier, and because I have the time I can get back into the theater.”
Before “Carousel,” Walz had returned to the theater in 2010 by performing in “Kiss Me Kate” at SLOC and “Once Upon a Mattress” with the Not So Common Players of Clifton Park.
“On stage it’s like unlocking a door and letting everything out, like the lyrics to ‘June is Bustin’ Out All Over,’ ” said Walz, whose teaching career involved working with gifted students in Saratoga County and Warren County.
“All the crazy notions in your head that have been shut up all winter you can let out. If you’re in concert, even if you do a solo you’re really not supposed to bring attention to yourself. You don’t want to detract from the music. But in the theater it’s different. You can gesticulate, you can make odd faces. You can have fun. You want to share the joy of the theater with people.”
Also given plenty of opportunity to stretch their vocal chords in this production of “Carousel” will be Hahn and Shake. Hahn, originally from Utica, has been in “Victor/Victoria” and “Kiss of the Spider Woman” at SLOC, while Shake played the role of Mabel in the SLOC production of “Pirates of Penzance” last fall.
“It’s quite a challenge, musically,” said Joe Phillips, who is directing the production. “Maybe the first 20 minutes of the show is almost entirely sung, and it is hard. This musical was Rodgers’ and Hammerstein’s second collaboration, right after their huge success with ‘Oklahoma!’ and they really integrated the book and the music on stage. ‘Oklahoma!’ was a step forward from the presentational musicals of the 1920s and ’30s, and ‘Carousel’ really took it a step further.”
“Carousel” opened on Broadway in April of 1945 and ran through May of 1947 with John Raitt and Jan Clayton in the starring roles. Christine Johnson, a contralto with the Metropolitan Opera, originated the role of Nettie. Hollywood made the movie version in 1956, again pairing Gordon MacRae and Shirley Jones (as was the case in “Oklahoma!”) in the two leads, with Claramae Turner, another Metropolitan Opera star, playing Nettie.
“This is a show with some very serious themes to it,” said Phillips. “It always resonated with me because I grew up visiting my grandparents in Maine quite a bit, and I have always been interested in the working-class people of New England. It’s Rodgers’ and Hammerstein’s post-war project, and it’s a little bit of a different picture about the American dream than ‘Oklahoma!’ was.”
Phillips has a cast of 45 to handle, and while fans of the film version will recognize the story in this production, it is a bit different from the film.
“The story doesn’t change much, but in many respects the play is different than the movie,” he said. “There’s actually a great deal more dancing in the movie, and the heavenly elements of the show are made a lot more of earlier in the movie. We kind of save that for the end.”
Categories: Life and Arts