Music and Lyrics by Bob Merrill Book by Michael Stewart, based on material by Helen Deutsch Directed and Choreographed by William Westbrooks Musical Direction by Alby Potts Sets Designed by Bob Phillips Costumes designed by Jose M. Rivera Lighting Designed by Katy Orrick Puppets Designed by Larry Engler Magic and Circus Coordinated by Richard Ellis Production Stage Manager David Dreyfoos
"Carnival!" is a musical about the tinsel and glitter of the circus, about the human backstage lives of the people who make all that for a living, and about the willingness to believe in the spectacle that makes circuses --- and lives --- possible. An innocent waif named Lili, who believes hand-puppets are real, makes a crowd-pleasing act just by talking and singing with them, restores the fortunes of a travelling troupe, and teaches the embittered ex-dancer whose hands are in those puppets that "Love Makes The World Go 'Round." What if she's also taken in by the magic tricks of Marco The Magnificent, who fully intends to be unfaithful to his fiancee-assistant The Incomparable Rosalie first chance he gets? Happy endings are for sorting everyone into the right beds eventually.
The circular stage and tent-like roof of the North Shore Music Theatre make it perfect for a show set in the circus. Dirctor William Westbrooks has added to the physical ambiance a parade of circus-acts that include clowns, jugglers, a slack-wire walker, adagio dancers, a gymnast, fire-twirlers, fire-eaters, ribbon-twirlers, flag-flourishers, fencers and stilt-walkers. Often there's so much going on he seems to have squeezed three rings into one, and the puppet-plot gets temporarily upstaged.
At the center of this coruscating whirlwind are Glory Crampton as the waif and Greg Zerkle as the puppeteer who can speak love and kindness only through his dolls. Lee Lobenhofer is the flamboyant magician, Adinah Alexander his sardonic, long-suffering pin-cushion assistant.
Everyone gets a moment in the spotlight, and mikes and speakers make certain every line and every note get heard. However this is an old musical every step in whose plot is predictable, and even with everything done right and well, the only surprises are in the circus-turns which whirl across the stage at dizzying speed and never collide. But that in itself is triumph enough.