July 17, 1997 in Features

Spin City Spokane Theatrical Company Banking On Spokane’s Love Of The Carousel To Support Its Debut

By The Spokesman-Review

It’s somehow fitting for the debut production of a new Spokane theatrical institution to be Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Carousel.”

For one thing, it fits the personality of Spokane, a city that boasts a historic carousel as one of its main attractions. For another, “Carousel” is both a crowd-pleasing and an aesthetically pleasing choice. It is one of the most popular shows ever to hit the Broadway stage, and it is widely considered to be the finest of all of Rodger and Hammerstein’s operettas.

This 1945 musical gave the world “If I Loved You,” “You’ll Never Walk Alone” and “The Carousel Waltz.”

This is more or less a test run for the fledgling Spokane Theatrical Company to see if Spokane can support its own professional summer-stock musical theater. The idea first arose when Patrick McHenry-Kroetch and Troy Nickerson were sitting around and musing one day.

“We were thinking, ‘Summer musical theater is missing in Spokane,’ ” said McHenry-Kroetch, the show’s producer. ” ‘They’ve got it in Coeur d’Alene, and they do a great job with it, but nothing in Spokane.’ ”

So they booked The Met, at 760 seats, for six performances starting Friday. If they sell out all six, or even come close to it, the message will be clear: Full speed ahead.

The group has assembled a cast that amounts to an all-star list of the area’s top musical-theater talent. The director is Nickerson, who has established himself at the top of the A-list of local musical directors. The role of Billy Bigelow, the carnival barker, will be played by Cheyenne Jackson, and the role of Julie Jordan, whom Billy falls tragically in love with, will be played by Julie Powell. Other roles will be filled by Melody Deatherage, Thara Cooper, Marianne McLaughlin, Jamie Flanery and Gary Pierce.

“We really pulled a coup with our casting,” said McHenry-Kroetch. “Sometimes Troy and I sit in back during the rehearsals and just start chuckling over our good fortune.”

The Met is a tough place to put an orchestra (it has no pit) so the music will be performed on twin pianos, with musical direction by Carol Miyamoto.

The Met has sparse backstage space, but the STC has solved that problem by using a computer graphic projector to beam images, such as a big beautiful moon, onto the backdrop. This is a state-of-the-art scenic technique that is used often on Broadway and in touring shows.

The costuming, according to McHenry-Kroetch, will be of professional quality.

McHenry-Kroetch has been gratified with the response he has received from the city’s performing-arts community, and also the community at large. The Cheney Cowles Museum, latching on to the carousel theme, added “Carousel” to its calendar of Natatorium Park exhibit events. In addition, the National Carrousel Association’s Preservation Award will be presented to Spokane’s Park Board (for Riverfront Park’s Loof Carrousel) in a ceremony just before the show on opening night.

Why? Just to add to the sense of “Carousel” occasion.

“Carousel” opens Friday and continues Saturday, Sunday and July 24-26. All shows are at 8 p.m. except this Sunday’s 2 p.m. matinee. Tickets are $16 for adults, $14 for seniors and children under 12, available at G&B; Select-a-Seat outlets or call 325-SEAT or (800) 325-SEAT.

‘It Started With Shakespeare’

The students of the Spokane Civic Theatre’s Performing Arts Day Camp will present “It Started With Shakespeare,” a collection of scenes from Shakespeare and contemporary theater.

The students range from grade 7 through 12, and they have been working on Shakespearean techniques and other theater techniques for several weeks.

The show runs Friday at 8 p.m. and Saturday at 1, 4 and 8 p.m. at the Firth Chew Studio Theatre in the basement of the Spokane Civic Theatre, 1020 N. Howard. Tickets are $5 general admission and can be reserved by calling 325-2507 or purchased at the door.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo

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