Carousel Needs To Be Revived Right Now

Rebecca Borowik

The upcoming Broadway season will be showering the Great White Way with an influx of revivals. Among the mix are favorites Spring Awakening, The Color Purple, Fiddler on the Roof, and She Loves Me. Personally, I love revivals; especially when a show that I never had the opportunity to see before comes back around. For instance, the last production of She Loves Me was on Broadway before I was even a thought in my parents’ heads. While I’m excited to see the offerings that the 2015-2016 season has in store, one musical that I’m partial to having a revival in the near future is Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel. 

If you aren’t familiar with it, Carousel depicts the tumultuous relationship of Billy Bigelow and Julie Jordan, two lost souls who connect one night on a New England fairground. The couple quickly marries, but Billy meets his death during a robbery attempt. In order to get through Heaven’s pearly gates, he’s granted the right to visit Earth for one day to set things right for both Julie and their daughter, Louise.

While it might sound like the makings of a love story, Carousel’s plot line runs much deeper. The main through line of the show is Billy’s brutish tendencies towards his wife and her ability to love him blindly. You might be asking why a musical that deals with domestic abuse is so greatly respected throughout the theatre community and the answer is simple; it deals consequences of human behavior, making it a story about life.  Billy and Julie are both complicated characters. If they’re put in the hands of the right actor, they both have the ability to touch your heart. 

There hasn’t been a revival of Carousel in over 20 years, the last being Lincoln Center Theatre’s production in 1994 (which garnered Audra McDonald her first Tony award).  I don’t think there’s a more perfect time to revive it than now. Rodgers and Hammerstein are known for being ahead of their time. Majority of their musicals deal with controversial topics, but none of them condone said topics. In the 1940s, when Carousel premiered, it was wartime and audiences were not ready to sit through a musical that wasn’t as happy-go-lucky as Oklahoma.

Now, in 2015, we’ve seen musicals that talk about mental illness, disease, sexuality, and gender identification. Audiences today are a lot more receptive than audiences back then and while Carousel had a successful first run, the edginess of the material was not as deeply explored. The Lincoln Center revival dug into all that grittiness, but we can go even deeper today. Plus, who wouldn’t want to hear all that beautiful and memorable music?

The piece just celebrated its 70th birthday with a successful production at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, starring Broadway favorites Laura Osnes and Steven Pasqaule. There were rumors that it would be brought to New York and hopefully the rumors become a reality.