Coming home for 'Carousel'

HRVHS graduate gives back by filming musical’s opening scene

Chuck Riedl arrived in Hood River on a mission last Wednesday after traveling from his home in Los Angeles. He drove straight to Hood River Valley High School, and went directly to the school’s Bowe Theater.

“I haven’t been in this theater for so long,” he said as he sat in the darkened theater watching more than 60 students rehearse the musical “Carousel,” which opens Friday.

Nostalgia aside, when Riedl arrived last week, he had with him one of the most important pieces of the “Carousel” production: the opening scene.

Riedl, a 1991 graduate of HRHVS and now a successful film editor and director, filmed the opening scene of “Carousel” in September at Oaks Park amusement park in Portland. He flew to Oregon last week to bring the final edited version to director Mark Steighner in preparation for this week’s opening.

“I’m psyched for the kids,” Riedl said. “It’s going to look really good.”

Steighner came up with the idea of filming the opening scene — which takes place on and around an amusement park’s carousel — while he was struggling with the idea of building an actual carousel for the set. The carousel is only needed for that scene, and he knew it was unrealistic to try to build such an elaborate and short-lived prop within the confines of the theater.

“I thought about the fact that we have Oaks Park,” Steighner said. And then he thought about Chuck Riedl, a former music student of his who he kept in touch with — albeit sporadically.

Steighner felt strongly about doing the opening segment on 16mm film rather than video, and that immediately won over Riedl when Steighner contacted him late last summer.

“I was impressed that he wanted to shoot film instead of video,” Riedl said. “There’s something special about that film look — you can’t replace it.” Riedl should know. After graduating from HRVHS, he went on to study film at the University of Oregon and then at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communications, where he produced his first film. Since then, he’s edited music videos, TV movies and directed actor Val Kilmer in an upcoming documentary. In 2001, he won the award for Best Comedy Short at the New York Film Festival for a film he wrote, edited and directed.

Even with Riedl’s expertise, filming the opening segment for “Carousel” was challenging. Riedl, Steighner and the cast of 60 had only a few hours at Portland’s Oaks Park and had to work fast. The six-minute segment had to be filmed with two different casts — which meant producing two versions of the film — since several of the lead roles are shared by two actors.

Steighner had everything planned out on storyboards when they started, which made Riedl’s job easier. And both Riedl and Steighner are pleased with the results.

“It was fun to work with Mark again,” Riedl said. “It’s fun when you can give something back to the community where you grew up. And the community will be really excited because the kids look like movie stars.”

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