The Making of the Musical

Thursday, June 28, 2007

"Carousel" will be presented by the Buena Vista Community Theater troupe at the Roxy Theater in a few weeks, under the direction of veterans Carol Huntzicker and Stan Rishoi.

"Things are coming together beautifully," said staging director Huntzicker. "We have an incredibly talented cast - some of the best musicians and singers in the county."

The Rodgers and Hammerstein musical set in the 1870s will come to life with some 40 actors and actresses and 20 musicians.

The large number of musicians, she said, is unusual for a BVCT production but it has been seen before - in the production of "Sound of Music" in 2001.

This is the second try at getting "Carousel" to the stage; the first time was in 2002. Audition numbers were down greatly that summer and a "back up plan" was put into action.

"A Grand Night for Singing," which calls for under 10 actors and actresses, was put on instead.

It was decided to try again at getting enough people to audition this year; this time there was no back up plan in mind.

"We kept our fingers crossed that we could do it," Huntzicker said.

And when auditions were held, everyone was pleasantly surprised with the interested number of people wanting to be a part of the production.

Huntzicker has been "hooked" on being a part of the stage since she was in college. While she was an education major, her roommate was a theater major. "I hung out with her a lot," she shared, and served on the "technical team."

And 20 years later, in Decorah, word had gotten out that she had experience in choreography. She was asked to help with the production of "Guys and Dolls" for the community theater.

"I was hooked from that point on. I started with tech work and worked my way through all the phases of the theater," she said, adding that she helped with lights, props and costuming.

"This is where I learned theater - from the tech point of view - and that's where I'm most comfortable. A person doesn't do well directing and performing," she commented.

Several years later, living in Arkansas, she found the community theater and in 1987, directed her first performance. So dedicated, she drove to Decorah each summer for a few years to help in the summer community theater.

She and her family moved to Storm Lake in 1990 and besides serving as a fourth grade teacher in the district, she was the high school drama coach for eight years. She has a great fondness for working with the young actors and actresses who presented performances on the South Auditorium stage.

She has been involved with the BVC theater from nearly the beginning and is sold on the idea of offering quality stage performances for the area.

"I love the whole idea of people coming together on stage to make a production. That has to be the most rewarding part of all of this. There are first-timers - even adults - seeing the stage for the very first time. In a community theater, you see everyone from someone who is 4 to someone who is 60. Everyone is working together."

After 40-some productions, she is still awed to see actors go from stumbling over their lines in the beginning to taking to the stage and delivering those lines with great confidence and precision.

She is thrilled to be working with Stan Rishoi, a retired music professor at Buena Vista University.

"This is such an awesome experience for the musicians to be working with someone of this stature," she said, of Rishoi.

He is directing the 24-piece orchestra and the chorus. He commented that the chorus/actors and the orchestra practice separately and the first time they will play together is at dress rehearsal, two days before the first performance.

While the orchestra, he said, is at a "professional challenge" when they play for the first time with the chorus/actors, "it is complete chaos - like a train wreck."

But once the curtain goes up on opening night, everyone blends together like they are meant to.

Directing such a performance is always a "challenge" because the productions the BVC theater board selects are "designed for professional people." But that challenge, Rishoi said, is the reason why those type of productions are selected and are popular with the audiences.

"Everyone here is a volunteer and in some cases, we have up to four members from the same family," he pointed out. "And we have every type of profession working together on stage."

In this production, for instance, there is a preacher, a dentist, a chiropractor, teachers, students, mail man - all who share the desire to perform in front of an audience.

He has enjoyed working with Huntzicker on the production.

"She has such high energy and is highly imaginative. Much of her work is done before she arrives here. There are hours and hours of prep work."

There are many qualities, Huntzicker said, that are required of a good director.

"You need to have creativity, organizational skills, the ability to think ahead, choosing the right people for the parts and of course patience," she said. "By the time the performance goes to stage we are a family."

Huntzicker has taken her choreography another step and is a very instrumental part of the popular "Touch of Broadway" musicians that perform programs of Broadway-flavor for audiences of only a few to 400. A number of the musicians in the group are performing in "Carousel."

* Performance dates are July 11-15. Tickets may be purchased by calling the Roxy Box Office (200-1314) between 6:30-8 p.m., July 1-10 (closed July 4.)

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