- OnStage Massachusetts Critic
Opening the 48th Anniversary Summer Season is Rogers and Hammerstein’s classic musical Carousel. It tells the story of carnival barker Billy Bigelow and mill worker Julie Jordan who meet at the carousel and quickly fall in love. In addition to the clear love theme, the show also delves into the themes of violence, hope, and redemption. The “Carousel Waltz” was an entertaining start to the show and the audience enjoyed the turning of the carousel center stage as various performers moved about the stage enticing the locals with different carnival acts such as acrobats, a dancing bear, clowns and of course the main attraction: the carousel.
Jessica Kundla as Carrie Pipperidge delivered a magnificent performance both with her vocals and strong character work. Her rendition of “Mister Snow” was absolutely lovely. Ciarán Sheehan as Billy Bigelow performed with strong vocals throughout, but his best performance of the evening was in “Soliloquy” towards the end of act one. His voice boomed through the theatre capturing the audience’s attention with his rich tone as he powerfully sang each note. Jennifer Ellis as Julie Jordan and Leigh Barrett as Nettie Fowler also delivered beautiful vocals throughout.
The best part of the show was the choreography by Director/Choreographer Rachel Bertone. The choreography was rooted in Ballet technique and well executed by the cast. My one complaint regarding choreography comes from the opening of act two: “This Was a Real Nice Clambake”, when the cast’s actions and lyrics led us to believe they were too full from the clambake to move, but some got a bit too energetic with the dancing especially the turning. If someone was that full they wouldn’t be turning and bouncing around unless they wanted their lunch to come back up. The boisterousness took away from the reality and authenticity of the number.
The highlight of act two was the beautifully danced “Ballet”, largely performed by Kyra Christopher as Louise Bigelow, Zachary Eisenberg as the Carnival Boy and Ensemble dancers. Christopher’s emotional connection to the music and the movement was stunning. Her technique was tremendous and she is clearly a very talented and trained dancer of whom I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of in the future.
While this musical is a classic, its’ length of three hours including intermission (in part due to a seeming lack of urgency as many scenes drag on) is certainly a deterrent and explains why a number of people left after the first act. However, if you love Rogers and Hammerstein or this musical, you’re sure to enjoy it. If you’re not an enthusiast of the classics you may want to sit this one out and wait for the next one. Carousel plays from June 9-19, 2016 at the Robinson Theatre (617 Lexington Street, Waltham, MA). For information and tickets visit www.reaglemusictheatre.com
Title Photo: Female dance ensemble from Carousel. Courtesy Reagle Music Theatre/©Herb Philpott
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