Some Enchanted Evening
August 31, 2023
It will be an enchanted evening of music and theater when The Horizon Theater's newest show opens tonight.
"This is supposed to be an evening of elegance and Golden Age classical music," Director Cory Schaeperkoetter said.
"Some Enchanted Evening" is a showcase of songs by the famous composer-lyricist team of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II.
The roots of musical theater
"Really, Rodgers and Hammerstein kind of created musical theater with things like 'Oklahoma' and 'Carousel,'" Cory explained.
The time period often referred to as the Golden Era or Golden Age of musicals started in the 1940s with Rodgers and Hammerstein and was the beginning of plot-based musicals as we're familiar with them today. While there were operas and works by writers like Gilbert and Sullivan that helped bridge the gap from opera to theater, it was the shows by Rodgers and Hammerstein that really changed things, according to Cory.
"This is the roots of musical theater," he explained.
In addition to being influential, these shows have also remained popular and well-known for decades. These are the stories and songs that people's parents and grandparents grew up with and have shared with their children, and many of the Golden Age musicals are close to many people's hearts, Cory said.
With the earliest shows having been written nearly 80 years ago, some of them are starting to reach their public domain age, when they will no longer be under copyright, which is bringing them back to people's attention again.
But performing shows and songs that were written so long ago also has unique aspects, including the way the shows tend to reflect the time period they were written in, Cory pointed out. One of the ways this happens is through the lyrics themselves.
"There's lots of language in this show that had a different meaning at the time," Cory said, adding the show will have a disclaimer to make people aware of this. Seeing the language used shows how slang has evolved and the roots of words that have changed for better or for worse. But the history of the musicals is part of what makes them meaningful.
"It's important to look back at that," Cory said.
From the historical context of the songs to the significance of the shows in the history of theater, the power of Golden Age musicals is demonstrated through "Some Enchanted Evening."
"It shows the variety of Rodgers and Hammerstein and it shows how many different beautiful numbers there are in all of these classics," Cory said.
The variety was one of the reasons Cory and his wife Sarah chose a showcase for their next production after trying, and failing, to pick out a Golden Age musical.
"We just couldn't decide on one so we decided on one that would have them all," Cory explained.
Putting together a showcase
While producing a showcase is different from producing a full musical, it comes with its own unique difficulties.
"The biggest challenge I ran into is blocking," Cory said.
He explained that in a traditional musical, the blocking, or the movement on stage, is mostly determined and influenced by the plot and the settings. Without those elements, he had to find different ways to show each character's personality and keep the show progressing forward.
"I think one of the other challenges has also just been how much music there is," Sarah added. "It's two and a half hours of just music, tight harmonies, and you have to be incredibly accurate with a lot of it."
Cory noted that accuracy in the music is especially important in this show since many people in the audience will be familiar with the songs, so they'll be able to tell if anyone messes up.
When it comes to knowing the music, Sarah has an especially intimate knowledge of the songs since she is not only the music director but one of two accompanists for the show. But having two pianos working together is another aspect of the show that has created its own challenges. Sarah has accompanied before, but always on a smaller scale and never with a second piano. Still, the challenge has been fun.
"It's great because each of them has their own specific part," Sarah said of the pianos. "We're not playing the same thing."
The first piano, which Sarah plays, has the bass and foundation of the songs, while the second piano, played by BreAnn Alvey, has the frills and orchestral extras, according to Sarah.
"You put them together and it paints a really beautiful musical picture," she said. "It's so exciting to hear now that we've got it all put together because it adds so much depth to the show rather than just being the bass piano part."
In the same way that the pianos come together to create something greater, all the difficulties of the production have led to something great.
"I think we underestimated how much of a challenge it would be, but it's been rewarding seeing it all come together," Sarah said.
"It's also brought out a lot of talent," Raif Nettik, the assistant director, added.
The show is written for five principal performers and an ensemble, and the cast has come together to make the show happen.
"Everyone in our cast is a very hard worker and they're all very smart," Cory said. "Most all of them come from a musical background of some sort. . . We pick and pull from many different people of talent and many different backgrounds here, and they all just came together to work."
The show also "benefits from the camaraderie greatly," Raif said, "and you can see that with the micro acting, so to speak, and the interactions we see between our ensemble and cast are incredible to see."
A different kind of story
The micro acting in the showcase is important because even though it's not a traditional musical that follows a plot, it still tells its own kind of story.
The showcase has a loose storyline, according to Cory, and "every character has their own personality and characteristics like they would in a musical."
In particular the showcase has two main love interests, and "you see their connection grow throughout the show," Cory explained.
A main part of how this storyline is achieved is in the way the songs are arranged.
"Songs will segue into another, giving them a different meaning than they might have had in the original story," Cory said, adding that one of the reasons he likes the showcase style is that "it gives you more interpretation for the meaning of the song."
The way the songs work together is also one of the things that attracted Raif to the showcase, particularly since the arrangement of songs has a cohesiveness to it that he hasn't seen from other similar shows.
Even though he hasn't seen any of the musicals that the songs in the show comes from and doesn't consider himself a fan of Golden Age musicals in general, Raif said he's come to fall in love with the show and is excited to watch some of the musicals now that he's worked with the music itself.
"I've teared up and cried at rehearsals quite a bit because it's just incredibly interesting," Raif admitted. "And I really enjoy that."
The cohesiveness of the show is a big part of what gives it power, and finding the similarities and commonalities between the songs helped Raif and Cory find the heart of the show as they directed it together.
For Raif, the show is about "five friends and lovers that are finding out what love means to them," and their stories create an overarching theme.
"It results in a culmination of a feeling instead of a plot," Raif explained. "It shows what feeling in love is like what finding love is like."
For both fans of Golden Age musicals who know every word and those who may not even enjoy musicals typically, "Some Enchanted Evening" will create an evening of elegance, beauty, and love, and everyone is invited to come enjoy a night of good music and good theater.
"Some Enchanted Evening" opens tonight at the Broadway Theater in Rock Springs. There will be performances at 7:30 p.m. on August 31 and September 1 and 2, and matinee performances at 2 p.m. on September 1 and 2. Tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for children and seniors and can be purchased online at broadwayrs.com/upcoming-events, by calling (307) 352-1434, or at the door. The show is suitable for all ages and audiences.