Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Carousel"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England’s LIVE Theater Guide


"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

Reviews of Current Productions

note: entire contents copyright 2007 by Carl A. Rossi


music by Richard Rodgers
book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II,
based on LILIOM by Ferenc Molnar

stage direction by Jim Grana
musical direction by Joe Mason
choreography by Avi Asuleen

Carrie Pipperidge … Emily Earle
Julie Jordon… Eliza Xenakis
Mrs. Mullin … Amy DeMarco
Billy Bigelow … Christopher Charron
Policeman … Christian Sterling Hegg
David Bascomb … Doug Desilets
Nettie Fowler … Tambre Tarleton Knox
Enoch Snow … David Letendre
Jigger Craigin … Scott Giangrande
Heavenly Friend … Allison Nichols
Starkeeper; Principal … Peter Ambler
Louise … Gillian Gordon
Enoch, Jr. … Paul Kmiec

Townspeople; Amusement Park Carnies; Youngsters; Seafaring Men:

Anelise Marie Allen; Peter Ambler; Brigid Battell; Evelyn Corsini-Alcorn,
Bret Steiman; Paul Kmec; Miranda Degen-Portnoy; Doug Deslilets,
Gillian Gordon; Christian Hegg; Charlotte Kelley; Connor Lourenco,
Jenny Moussa; Allison Nichols; Nicole Palumbo; Jessica Santos


Conductor; Piano … Joe Mason
Bass … Frank Toppa
Reeds … David Daquil
Trumpet … Jack Pickell
French Horn … Neil Godwin
Percussion … Brian O’Neill

The Arlington Friends of the Drama’s CAROUSEL led me back to my own acting days in my church group’s productions, composed of parish members who held jobs by day and rehearsed at night, of choreographers hired to make non-dancers, dance, of directors who brought self-conscious bodies to stage-life, and so on. The Friends’ CAROUSEL falls along similar lines and I embraced enough of it, having been there and done that, so long ago; that said, the production still has a dress-rehearsal feel to it --- there are sour notes from the orchestra and “oops-pardon me” moments amongst the ensembles --- my gravest concern is that someone has tinkered with the script, either by choice or by necessity: a suggestion of a carousel, peeking in from the wings, may be one thing but to condense the dream-ballet to as few people as possible and then shred what is left of it, to have Jigger Craven escape Billy Bigelow’s fate and return on Mrs. Mullen’s arm, and to have Nettie Fowler rather than Dr. Selden deliver the graduation speech must be noted if not criticized. James Grana’s direction is far too presentational with his actors ever wandering about, courting their audience, rather than interacting amongst themselves --- CAROUSEL was a groundbreaking musical-play, after all, demanding more psychological realism than the fluffy musicals that preceded it --- only when the actors stand or sit still, here and there, does the production thicken in interest. That said, there is some hearty, foolproof comedy amongst Carrie, Enoch and Jigger, and Billy’s death scene is, happily, rather moving.

Christopher Charron, an amiable, good-looking fellow, lacks the fire and sexual threat needed for Billy Bigelow --- as with the Reagle Players’ lead, two seasons ago, this is a musical-comedy “tough” who must be taken on faith, alone --- and Mr. Charron’s soft-grained voice is challenged by Billy’s high notes. Compared to the Reagle’s radiant Sarah Pfisterer who earned an Addison for her simple, homespun Julie Jordan, astonishingly in period, Eliza Xenakis’ heroine is sly and all too knowing --- she, not Mr. Charron, becomes the pursuer in the Billy-Julie love scene --- though Ms. Xenakis sings beautifully, throughout. I grew to like Emily Earle’s Carrie Pipperidge once I got used to Ms. Earle’s clobbering way with a line; in terms of laughs, David Letendre’s Enoch and Scott Giangrande’s Jigger were the audience’s favorites --- sugarplum meets crab apple --- and may the Messrs. Letendre and Giangrande be not tempted to overdo their characterizations to reap even more approval.

Two scene shifts must also be noted: the Messrs. Charron and Giangrande are made to carry on their own bale of hay before resuming their surly personas --- a directorial no-no --- but they are balanced, later, by two bespectacled biddy-rivals who enter and exit with tables and chairs, in true silent-comedy style; an exquisite example of turning a stage-necessity into a stage-strength.

"Carousel" (13-29 April)
22 Academy Street, ARLINGTON, MA
1 (781) 646-5922

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England’s LIVE Theater Guide