Providence College Blackfriars Theatre's current production is the concert version of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Carousel". Based on Ferenc Molnar's play "Liliom", Carousel takes place between 1873 and 1888 in a small New England fishing village in Maine. The tale revolves around a love affair between Billy Bigelow, a traveling carnival man, and Julie Jordan, a local factory worker. They end up getting married and after learning he is soon to become a father, 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 April 19, 1945 and 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 century. Director Jennifer Swain uses 14 cast members to play multiple roles in this version of the show and keeps the action moving quickly. Musical director and conductor David Harper leads his excellent 20 member orchestra including a harp, in the glorious music of the show and he and Jennifer capture the essence of this emotionally charged show perfectly, winning it the tears, accolades and standing ovation this powerful presentation delivers to an appreciative audience.
The two leading players shine in their roles. College junior Shane Quinn tackles the role of Billy and he delivers the goods with his strong tenor voice in "If I Loved You" (my favorite R&H song) "The Highest Judge of All" and "The Soliloquy". The first is where Billy and Julie refuse to admit their love for each other, the second is when he dies and demands to be judged by the Lord and the last one is his outlook on his future with his son or daughter. Rodgers music is topnotch in this show. Shane captures the swagger of this womanizing, man with a wanderlust in his soul who finally reforms to help his wife and daughter have hope to live their lives to the fullest. He softens his bravado in the reprise of "If I Loved You" where he finally admits his love for Julie as well as in the graduation scene where he turns his daughter's life around from sullen child into hopeful woman. These two tearjerking scenes are fantastic and well done. Nancy Anastadis captures the essence of Julie and her gorgeous soprano voice soars in "If I Loved You" and "What's The Use of Wonderin'?" where she sings that it doesn't matter if your man is good or bad, you will love him anyway. Her acting strength comes through when Julie admits her love for Billy after his death on the bench and in the second act when she realizes Billy brought Louise the star from heaven. These two young performers are marvelous in their roles.
Colleen Rosati plays Julie's cousin, Nettie who doesn't appear until the third scene of Act 1. Her grand entrance is marked by "June is Bustin' Out All Over" and the second act begins with her leading the chorus in "A Real Nice Clambake" where she describes all the food everyone consumed. Colleen gets a chance to tug at your heartstrings with the poignant rendition of "You'll Never Walk Alone" where she comforts Julie after Billy's death. The comic duo in the show are Danielle Kramer as Carrie, Julie's not too bright friend and Kevin Black as Mr. Snow, a stuffed shirt herring fisherman she's in love with. Danielle sings about him in her first song called "Mister Snow" and in she and Kevin sing about their impending marriage in "When the Children are Asleep". Another comic turn in the show is by Amy Hogan as Mrs. Mullin, the owner of the Carnival who lusts after Billy. She has some funny one liners and argument scenes with Julie, Billy, Carrie and Jigger. The villain in this show is Jeffrey Dujardin, a college junior who plays the slick charming conman, Jigger, who teaches Carrie some wrestling moves while copping a feel and kiss while doing it. Jigger also convinces Billy to rob the factory owner leading to Billy's death. Jeff leads the male chorus in "Blow High, Blow Low" a song about their whaling adventures and in "Stonecutters Cut It On Stone" a song about women loving a cad and not a hero. Jeff handles this evil character with ease and gets some laughs at his sneaky antics. Halleluyah Walcott plays the starkeeper who tells what Billy needs to do to redeem himself and also plays the guest speaker at the graduation who leads the chorus in the finale of the show. Elena Blyskal plays Louise, Billy and Julie's daughter. She captures the sullen behavior of this 15 year old girl perfectly and gets to misbehave with the snooty Snow children before her father's love transforms her into a better person. Nick Hebert does a good job as the factory owner, Mr. Bascombe who Billy tries to rob while Liam Kelly is a hoot as the Cockney policeman in the first act and the principal in the second act. Kudos to all the cast and crew who did an excellent job to make this a first rate production. So be sure to catch this wonderful before it is too late.