In Concert Opens in Ottumwa, One Night Only!

OTTUMWA-The American Gothic Performing Arts Festival closes its 5th summer season with Rodgers and Hammerstein’s immortal musical this Friday, June 23, 7:30 p.m. at Bridge View Center in Ottumwa.

The gala concert performance is the classic work of this musical duo and is a tour de force of musical theater. Brash carousel barker Billy Bigelow and Julie Jordan, a quiet girl who works in the mill, fall in love, marry, and have a stormy relationship that leads to tragedy and an attempt at mending old wounds from beyond the grave, in this musical adaptation of Ferenc Molnar’s play, Liliom.

“This is arguably one of the best and most beautiful musical theater pieces ever written,” says Willhoit, president of the AGPAF and director for the production. The AGPAF version is not fully staged, but Willhoit stresses it is no less beautiful or poignant. “Our singers and actors, chorus, orchestra and production staff will tell a marvelous story.”

The presentation celebrates all the familiar music contained in the show. Willhoit says that there is still dancing and story-telling, but sets and costumes are traded for a 42-piece orchestra, something unheard of in a traditional pit orchestra.

“The orchestra and ensemble will be on stage at all times, much like a traditional orchestra and chorus symphonic concert, but there will be dialogue, the epic ballet, and of course, the classic songs from the show, You’ll Never Walk Alone, If I Loved You and June Is Bustin’ Out All Over.

The festival has again teamed up with the Ottumwa Area Community Chorus under the direction of Dr. Christine Bergen. “It’s been fun to work with singers who may not traditionally be on stage for fully-stage show productions, but love the music. This has been a fun opportunity for them,” says Willhoit.

In addition to the 42-member orchestra and 30-member choral ensemble, the show features Minneapolis-based singer Justin Spenner as the troubled Billy Bigelow, Madison, Wisconsin native Natalie Trumm as Julie, Milwaukee-based soprano Elizabeth Smith as Carrie, and Ottumwa favorite Kyle Roemermann as Enoch Snow. Adam Quitashat as Jigger, Christine Bergen as Nettie Fowler, Karen Kaiser as Mrs. Mullins and Tom Rodgers in multiple roles round out the cast. The ballet is choreographed and danced by Iowa City native Paul Amrani and features Olivia Bohlmann, Reese Bradford, Dasherell Jones and David Jones as well. General admission tickets for Carousel – In Concert are $24.50 and include a gala reception with live music provided by Steve and Michaela McLain following the performance on the plaza of Bridge View Center. Live music will feature Michaela and Steven McLain. Tickets are available online at or by calling 641-777-9636.