Broadway Review: "Carousel"

 Photo Credit: Julieta Cervantes.

Photo Credit: Julieta Cervantes.

Joseph Verlezza

  • New York Theatre Critic

The beloved Rogers and Hammerstein “Carousel” has not often been revived on the Broadway stage since it first opened to critical acclaim in 1945, so this third incarnation, after a long hiatus since the highly successful production at Lincoln Center in 1994, will be welcomed by audiences who savor the familiar lavish score. Theater aficionados will be delighted by the superb vocals that illuminate such favorites as “If I Loved You,” “June Is Bustin’ Out All Over,” and “You’ll Never Walk Alone” along with the new sumptuous orchestrations by Jonathan Tunick. Although the score is still heralded as one of the best among the classic musicals of its era, the book is quite complex and does not withstand the test of time.

The musical revolves around the complicated love story between Billy Bigelow, a disreputable carousel barker, and Julie Jordan, a young innocent but venturesome local mill worker. It takes place in the state of Maine at the turn of the twentieth century. The egregious relationship is hardly the fairy-tale romance: it is laden with anger, deception and abuse, themes that do not translate well to the present socio-political atmosphere. The second act is heavy-handed, dealing with the themes of afterlife and redemption, crossing the borderline to the sanctimonious, putting the brakes on any momentum established in the plot previously. It also contains the laborious “Ballet, “appearing near the close of the show, originally choreographed by Agnes de Mille, fashioned after her similar ground breaking, successful scene in “Oklahoma.”

Joshua Henry portrays a formidable Billy delivering his wrenching “Soliloquy” with accurate poise and conviction, accompanied by vocal prowess. Jessie Mueller creates a less convincing, reserved Julie and although vocally accomplished, lacks character stability. What becomes most problematic is the absence of chemistry between the couple. The incomparable Renee Fleming establishes a solid and sagacious Nettie Fowler, deftly conquering the prominent “You’ll Never Walk Alone” with her clear tonal quality and sincere delivery. Lindsay Mendez provides essential comic relief as best friend Carrie Pipperidge and her betrothed Enoch Snow, enthusiastically inhabited by Alexander Gemignani with a big, bold and beautiful vocal, stealing his every scene.

Choreographer Justin Peck executes excellent dance sequences that only elevate the dark and stilted storyline. Director Jack O’Brien manages to move the plot along at an ever-slow pace and does not ennoble character development in order to embrace current moral judgment. The result is a mixed bag, but certainly worth a visit if enthralled by classic musicals that have become a part of theater history.

 

CAROUSEL

The cast for “Carousel” features Joshua Henry, Jessie Mueller, and Renée Fleming. They are joined by Lindsay Mendez, Alexander Gemignani, Margaret Colin, John Douglas Thompson, Amar Ramasar, and Brittany Pollack.

The ensemble of “Carousel” features Colin Anderson, Yesenia Ayala, Nicholas Belton, Colin Bradbury, Andrei Chagas, Leigh-Ann Esty, Laura Feig, David Michael Garry, Garett Hawe, Rosena M. Hill Jackson, Amy Justman, Jess LeProtto, Skye Mattox, Kelly McCormick, Anna Noble, Adriana Pierce, Rebecca Pitcher, David Prottas, Amy Ruggiero, Craig Salstein, Ahmad Simmons, Antoine L. Smith, Corey John Snide, Erica Spyres, Ryan Steele, Sam Strasfeld, Halli Toland, Ricky Ubeda, Scarlett Walker, Jacob Keith Watson, and William Youmans.

The creative team of this new production of Carousel includes Santo Loquasto (Scenic Design), Ann Roth (Costume Design), Brian MacDevitt (Lighting Design), Scott Lehrer (Sound Design), Jonathan Tunick (Orchestrations), and Andy Einhorn (Musical Supervision, Direction, andVocal Arrangements). Production photos by

“Carousel” runs at the Imperial Theatre (249 West 45th Street). For further information, including the performance schedule and to purchase tickets, visit http://www.carouselbroadway.com/. Running time is 2 hours and 45 minutes including one intermission.