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In Tandem’s ‘Carnival’ a Delightful Three-Ring Circus

Apr. 25, 2017
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Photo Credit: Tanya Dhein

In Tandem Theatre has hit the big time under the Big Top with its comical, charming production of the musical Carnival. The lesser-known show opened last weekend and will delight audiences smart enough to grab tickets while they can. It’s In Tandem’s biggest production to date, with a cast of 15 actors, four-piece musical team and a delightful carnival set and atmosphere that extends out into the lobby. (Play the roulette wheel. It’s a guaranteed winner and the popcorn is free!)

Under the detailed direction of Managing Director Jane Flieller, the show captures the excitement and energy of this popular form of mass entertainment while exploring the behind-the-scenes machinations of its assorted characters.

Set outside Paris, France, in the ’20s, Carnival focuses on the innocent, wide-eyed orphan, Lili (Susan Wiedmeyer), who grows up quickly when she joins the circus and immediately falls under the spell of Marco the magician (Steve Koehler), whose sleight-of-hand tricks pale in comparison to his womanizing ways. In the meantime, his extremely jealous female assistant, Rosalie (Beth Mulkerron), is constantly trying to catch him in the act while the show must somehow still go on. Throw in a couple of hand puppeteers (Nathan Marinan and J. Keegan Siebken), who eventually bring Lili into their act, and the stage is set for all sorts of madcap fun—as well as inevitable heartbreak. Life is literally a three-ring circus—both in and outside the Big Top. 

The cast excels every step of the way, and it’s refreshing to see In Tandem grow and succeed in taking on a show of this size in its intimate space. Choreographer Karl Miller maximizes the talents of the ensemble, pulling off some challenging moves in close quarters, while Kathy Smith’s vibrant, flashy costumes add to the spectacle, blending into the circus atmosphere. Kudos to actors Marinan and Siebken, whose mastery and clever voicing of multiple hand puppets were just as fun to watch as the live actors. This Carnival really does have something for everyone. 

Through May 14 at Tenth Street Theatre, 628 N.10th St. For tickets, call 414-271-1371 or visit intandemtheatre.org.

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