The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

March 8, 2012

'Carousel' musical coming to PV stage

Star Beacon

ANDOVER — There are some moments in a person’s life that are defining. Those defining moments stay with us, and when given the chance to share in them again, most people jump at the chance. Such is the case and the inspiration for this year’s choice of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Carousel” for Pymatuning Valley’s spring production. The musical, directed by Pymatuning Valley choir director, Maribeth Miltner, holds a special place in Miltner’s heart.

For Miltner, her experience as a student working on “Carousel” was what led her to a career in teaching and wanting to direct student theater. When Miltner began her career at PV, “Carousel” was the first musical that she directed. And as Miltner has planned for this as her last year directing the musical, she knew exactly what she would choose.

Miltner may very well be inspiring future actors and directors.

In the lead role of Billy Bigelow is junior, Austin Blair. Blair is no stranger to the PV stage, previously appearing in “Guys and Dolls,” “The Music Man” and “Willy Wonka Jr.”

“We’ve been working day and night, so I think this is going to be the best play,” Blair said.

Blair has worked his way up the ladder through his prior performances, and in talking with him, his enthusiasm and passion for the play is evident.   Knowing this is likely Miltner’s last turn as director, Blair said, “Ms. Miltner has been my teacher for a decade.  I know she has a lot of stress (with the productions).  It’s going to be so different without her.”

Working alongside Miltner is sophomore assistant director, Hannah Hnida.  She feels working with Miltner is a tremendous experience.  She also is impressed with all of the work that goes into such a big production.  Hnida says her duties include working right alongside of Miltner and like any director she wanted to brag about her cast.

“I’m really proud of them,” said Hnida. “They are working really well together. Roberta and Janine really clicked.”

Roberta and Janine are Roberta Benedict and Janine Marshall, both freshman, and the female leads of Carrie Pipperidge and Julie Jordan.

For Benedict, the prospect of a lead is daunting. “I am so excited, yet so nervous,” she said.

Benedict is no stranger to the stage and she says she has been in a lot of plays, but it is new for her to be so central. Marshall expressed similar sentiments.

“It is my first lead, and I am very excited,” Marshall said.

“We all have great chemistry together and get along. We are all friends,” Benedict said.

Watching the rehearsal, it was obvious the fun that the cast is having with one another.

The Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, the top rated musical of the 20th century according to Time Magazine, is a story of young love, troubled relationships, poor choices and a last chance at redemption. The plot and performance are not without challenges. Miltner said she knew the challenges, but she feels that the production is handling them with the careful consideration needed. The abuse that is hinted at in the course of the story is not to be taken lightly. Miltner is having a 50/50 raffle at each performance of the play with the proceeds supporting the work of those who help victims of domestic violence.

 With all of the tremendous work going into the production of “Carousel,” it promises to be a memorable performance. Perhaps it will coax Miltner to not use “Carousel” as a bookend for her musical theater, but as a second start.

“Carousel” at PV opens on March 23 at 7:30 p.m. with additional performances 7:30 p.m. March 24 and a 2 p.m. matinee on March 25. Ticket information is available at the high school by contacting Maribeth Miltner at 440 293-6263.