note: entire contents copyright 2009 by Beverly Creasey
CAROUSEL has to be one of the strangest –and perhaps most ambitious--- of Rogers and Hammerstein’s many musicals. The music itself is sublime but the story (based on Molnar’s LILIOM) is downright cringe-worthy at times. The idea is inspired, to give a flawed central character a second chance at redemption, but the notion is marred by the writer’s contention that hitting “doesn’t hurt” if you truly love the perpetrator. Yuck. Not a musical to warm the heart of a Feminist.
Domestic violence aside, the Turtle Lane Production (playing through December 30th) has some thrilling moments---unfortunately punctuated by more than a few awkward ones. The angels in Act II may pride themselves on their “patience as long as time,” but we humans prefer our drama to move quickly. Every scene should be as lovely as Christopher Hird’s ballet (after DeMille) for Gillian Gordon and Derek Raposo ---and as lively as the “June is Bustin’ Out All Over” number. Director Russell Greene gets fine performances from Nicholas Howe as Billy Bigelow and Julianne Richards as his love interest, the longsuffering Julie, and from Heather R. Karwowski as Julie’s plucky best friend and from Margaret McCarty as spunky Aunt Nettie. (The choral work, however, could have used some.)
John MacKenzie’s set boasts gorgeous shots of earth from outer space, this being a “concept” production, complete with celestial telescope for Billy to watch the earthlings flail about from on high. Richard Itczak’s period costumes are charming for the Downeasters but I couldn’t figure out why the heavenly characters were Puritans from another dimension…and why did the starkeeper sport the only Maine accent in the show? And why oh why was the wrenching death scene staged (from where I sat) entirely behind tall boxes so we could see neither Billy nor Julie?
On the plus side, it was “A Real Nice Clambake”… so see TLP’s production for McCarty’s wonderful “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” the romantic “If I Loved You” and the stirring “Soliloquy” and try to muster some angelic patience for the rest.