The F.U.D.G.E. Theatre Company's 10th anniversary show is Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Carousel". Based on Ferenc Molnar's 1909 Hungarian drama, "Liliom", the show takes place between 1873 and 1888 in a small New England fishing village in Maine. The tale revolves around Billy Bigelow, a carnival man, and Julie Jordan, a local factory worker. They end up getting married and after learning he is to become a father, Billy kills himself after a botched robbery. Several years later he is allowed to return to earth for a short time to redeem himself and help his daughter and Julie recover from the stigma of his death. The original show opened on Broadway on April 19, 1945, ran for 890 performances, winning 8 Donaldson Awards and the Drama Critics Circle Award for "Best Musical" of 1945. The 1994 revival won 5 Tony Awards and in 1999, TIME MAGAZINE voted "Carousel" the best musical of the 20th Century. The 1956 movie version starred Gordon McRae and Shirley Jones as Billy and Julie. Director Joe DeMita casts each role splendidly in this very emotionally moving and well written musical, winning them a thunderous ovation at curtain call.
Joe's casting and blocking of this show is right on the money. The pantomime opening segment done to the Carousel Waltz with the crowd at the carnival is breathtaking. The scene lets you know what is happening without any dialogue. The voices in this show are some of the best ones around and music director Stephen Schapero elicits the power needed from the cast for these numbers. He not only musically directs but also plays keyboards and conducts his six piece orchesta, helping to set the mood for many poignant moments that occur. Joe is also the choreographer and creates many dances including the ballet segment of Louise on the beach, the rousing one for "June is Busting Out" and a hornpipe dance to "Blow High, Blow Low". The ballet segment is fantastic with Kimberly Fife as Louise. Joe's choreography in this show is the best I have ever seen for "Carousel". The gorgeous 19th century costumes are by Tina Cersosimo and Emily Monroe.
The two leads in this show are terrific performers who shine in their numbers. The handsome and debonair Dave Carney's strong baritone voice is splendid and soars off the charts in "If I Loved You"(my favorite R&H song), "The Soliloquy" and "The Highest Judge of All". The first is where Billy and Julie refuse to admit their love for each other, the second one is his outlook on his future son or daughter and the last one is after he dies and demands to be judged by the Lord. The second one stops the show with its intensity. Rodgers music in these numbers can't be beat. Dave also gives strength to his acting scenes, capturing the swagger and charm of a womanizing man with a wanderlust in his soul. He finally reforms to help his wife and daughter to have hope to live their lives to their fullest. Billy's death scene and his scenes with Louise and Julie in the yard and at the graduation are very poignant as he helps them cope with their future now that he is gone. I last reviewed Dave as George in "Drowsy Chaperone". Gorgeous brunette, Stephanie Schapero is splendid as Julie. Her magnificent soprano voice fills the theatre with "If I Loved You" and "What's the Use of Wondering" where she says it doesn't matter whether your man is good or bad you will love him anyway. The reprise of "Never Walk Alone" at the end of the show where she finally accepts Billy's encouragement leaves the audience in tears. Stephanie makes the transition from naive girl into older wiser woman with ease and she uses her facial expression to make you cry when she finds the star Billy left her while he sings the tear jerking reprise of "If I Loved You" where Billy finally admits he loves her. She admits her love for Billy during his death scene and when she starts to sing "Never Walk Alone" until she breaks down in tears. An awesome and well cast pair of performers who deliver the goods from start to finish of the show.
Patricia Jamison does a topnotch job as Nettie Fowler. She bursts on the scene, to welcome summer to Maine with the exuberant "June Is Busting Out" with her glorious soprano voice and does a comic turn in "A Real Nice Clambake" where she tells about all the food everyone consumed at the picnic. Patricia also tugs at your heart strings with "You'll Never Walk Alone" where she comforts Julie after Billy's death. Gorgeous redhead,Holly Ann Marshall does a spectacular job as Carrie, Julie's not too bright friend who loves stuffed shirt herring fisherman, Enoch Snow played to the hilt by by TJ Rufo. Holly Anne gets to show off her lovely soprano voice in "Mister Snow", does a dance with the girls during the reprise and does a stunning duet with TJ called "When The Children Are Asleep". Holly Anne is terrific in this role. TJ has a strong Irish tenor voice which he uses in the duet with Holly Anne and in the mournful "Geraniums in the Window" when Enoch thinks Carrie has cheated on him with Jigger. They get to lighten up the show with their comic antics as does Sharon Kivnik as Mrs. Mullin. She is the owner of the Carnival who lusts after Billy, argues with Julie, Carrie, Billy and Jigger, shooting off insults at a quick pace. The villain of the show Jigger is played by Christian Masters. He oozes his oily, slick charm when he convinces Billy to commit the robbery, tries to kiss Carrie and cheats Billy at cards. Christian leads the men in "Blow High, Blow Low" and "Stonecutters Cut It on Stone". The excellent dancers are lead by Kimberly as Louise who captures the pathos of the mixed up daughter wonderfully. Mike Fay plays the Starkeeper and Anne Marie Alvarez is the heavenly friend who guides Billy back to earth. Kudos to one and all who make this a fantastic show. So for an excellent rendition of this classic musical, be sure to catch "Carousel" by F.U.D.G.E. Theatre Company. Their 11th season's shows are "Spring Awakening", "To Kill a Mockingbird" and "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat".