Review: In Tandem's Enchanting CARNIVAL Circles Audiences In Retro Magic

By: May. 05, 2017
Photo Credit: Tanya Dhein
Photo Credit: Tanya Dhein

Similar to an actual carved and rotating carousel, In Tandem's musical Carnival circles audiences with the sentiment "Love Makes the World Go Round." The familiar song from the 1960's production written by Bob Merrill and Michael Stewart in their book, lyrics and music adapted from a 1950's novel titled "Lili" happens outside Paris, circa 1920. Carnivals and circuses played to packed audiences before World War I and the depression, and in this enchanting story a young orphan named Lili travels from hr past home when her father dies to search for her future, "where everyone knows her name," and of course, true love.

On Lili's journey, portrayed by the very innocent and expressive Susan Wiedemeyer, she encounters Schlegel's Cirque de Paris, and the perspective performers. Steve Koehler's handsome Marco the Magnificent offers several life lessons, His performance in the magic act interacts with Beth Mulkerron's Rosalie, his assistant, to perfect effect, especially in the number, "Always, Always You." Puppeteers Jacquot (Nathan Marinan), and Paul, (J. Keegan Siebken), give Lili an opportunity to use her beautiful voice and comedic talent. An exciting, ensemble comprises the rest of the cast, with Chris Flieller appearing in several charming cameos.

Directed by Jane Flieller, this production moves at a quick pace and uses every inch of the Tenth Street Theater...a feat in itself. Carnival represents In Tandem's most ambitious production to date, and gives notice the company keeps challenging Milwaukee with their presence. This includes, the clever and engaging choreography come to life on the intimate stage through Karl Miller and Kathy' Smith's true to life and colorful costume designs, while a four piece orchestra directed by Josh Robinson accompanies the musical. Accomplished actors round out the ensemble, each equally enchanting without ever a missed step.

Outside the theater in the lobby, In Tandem stages a "carnival" kitschy atmosphere steeping audiences in 1920 ambiance. Find the free Tarot Card Reading, or bags of popcorn to be enjoyed during the intermission while a wheel of fortune sets up the audiences' magic mood this May. Fabulous and fun, the theater becomes an interactive experience.

What happens to these performers as they navigate the stresses of the circus and 1920's economics? Some of the best moments appear when Lili sings with her three puppets, Carrot Top, Renaldo the Fox, and Marguerite, very well done, including the song and dance ensemble, "Beautiful Candy," a visual delight. To name too many moments in this production will diminish the enchantment for audiences yet to come where the theater's intimacy enhances these numbers. Guaranteed to lighten the heart, this musical inspires audiences to believe love truly makes the world go round.

Underneath the retro candy colored costumes and beautiful voices, these characters become souls searching for their place in a world turned upside down. How do they change and what personal demons expose their vulnerability? This especially includes the dejected Paul, who struggles with his own views on love. How similar to contemporary times where circumstances change and individuals again struggle to find their love, place and purpose in the world. Be sure, absolutely sure, to secure a seat to In Tandem's stunning Carnival, where audiences can experience the words from the production's melody; how can life be tragic when filled with magic. The enchantment in life found when one believes that the lessons in life seen through love- of every kind-do make the world go round.

In Tandem Theater presents Carnival at Tenth Street Theater through May 14. For further information about their upcoming 2017-2018 season, or to purchase tickets to Carnival, please call: 414.271.1371 or