GV Opera Theatre to explore relationships with upcoming performances


Sara Carte

GVL Archives

Allison Rafferty, Staff Writer

The Grand Valley State University Opera Theatre will be performing “Side by Side” by American composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim from Oct. 8 through Oct. 17.

Performances will take place at the Louis Armstrong Theatre in the Haas Center for Performing Arts on the University’s Allendale campus. 

Sondheim is best known for the way that he created music about relationships. 

In this production the Opera Theatre wants to highlight all of the forms that relationships can take – whether they be straight, gay, polyamorous, friendships, family, and even humanity’s relationship to Mother Earth – “Side by Side” represents the nature of them all. 

GVSU Professor of Music and Artistic Director of Opera Theatre, Dale Schriemer, credited the pandemic to aiding in the selection of “Side by Side.”

“I needed a quality show that could be rehearsed in a safe way and that would provide students with a potent theatrical experience,” Schriemer said. 

The cast consists of ten GVSU students, and because the performance involves numerous solos, duets, and trios, the Opera Theatre has been able to safely rehearse with small groups of people. 

The show is a compilation of various songs written and composed by Sondheim, which makes this performance different from previous ones the Opera Theatre has put on. 

Music Major and cast member, Alyssa Veldman, said she loves how unique Sondheim’s work is. 

“Performing these amazing songs is going to be different from anything you have seen at Grand Valley,” Veldman said. 

Vocal Music Education major and cast member, Joe Mayer, said he enjoys the way that the show gives each performer an opportunity to try something new. 

“‘Side by Side’ by Sondheim very much plays like a greatest hits album of Sondheim,” Mayer said. “Nearly all of his most famous works are represented in our show. Because of this structure, each member of the cast is actually given the opportunity to play lots of different characters and experiment with many different song styles and themes, which might not be the case in a more linear musical.”

Schriemer said he hopes that audience members will be able to take a deeper look into their own relationships after seeing the show. 

“We hope that the power of Stephen Sondheim’s music will help us view our own relationships in a different way and perhaps offer us insight into how we can evolve in and through those relationships and therefore be changed for the better,” Schriemer said. 

Both Schriemer and the cast said they are looking forward to finally being able to perform live and in person. 

“Having a year of remote music-making was informative, but now that things are starting to become more in person, we really need to remind people just how much music and theatre means to our culture,” Mayer said. “Putting on a revue-style show like this one is a great way to reintroduce the public to musical theatre and how many diverse musical opportunities are available again.”

Vocal Performance Major and cast member, Dan Bittner, said that being able to perform in front of a live audience is not only exciting for the cast but can help the community see the light at the end of the tunnel.

“I think if we can provide an enjoyable experience for people to come out and see in person, then I say we’re doing our part to help our neighbors and strangers alike move forward,” Bittner said. 

Keeping in tune with the University’s pandemic protocols, each show will only be seating at 25% capacity. Students and faculty have also been required to wear masks during rehearsals. 

Tickets can be purchased through GVSU’s Department of Music, Theatre, and Dance website.