Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Carousel
Directed by John Shillington
Music Direction by Janis Dunson Wilson
Choreography by Michella Snider
For tickets / schedule :
Spreckels Performing Arts Center
Rohnert Park, CA
Spreckels Theatre Company
RUN: February 13 – March 1, 2015
RATING: 4 of 5 stars
(February 15, 2015)
It is difficult to imagine the timeless story failing to move an audience, but the original Hungarian stage play Liliom from 1909 did not find favor until the 1920s when it was translated into English and brought to Broadway. It caught on in America, leading to Orson Welles of The War of the Worlds fame producing a radio broadcast in 1939. The unforgettable team of Rodgers & Hammerstein chose to adapt Liliom after the success of their first musical Oklahoma!.
Carousel’s haunting melodies reflect the longing expressed by characters throughout the musical, asking what it is to love someone, if they are worthy of forgiveness, and why we sometimes hurt those we care for most deeply. It is a dark contemplation of the flaws in humanity, yet mingled with hope and glimpses of sunlight through the gloom, which makes it all the more riveting.
Spreckels presents it as a staged concert, conducted by Janis Dunson Wilson. Although present on stage, the musicians did not distract from the action, as the cast was strong enough to fully draw attention throughout both acts.
Jennifer Mitchell as Julie Jordan conveyed a wistful hope, supported by an angelic voice that brought the score to life. Her If I Loved You was ethereal in its beauty, and You’ll Never Walk Alone caused many a tear in the House. Ezra Hernandez as Billy Bigelow was charismatic and fiery, with solid dancing skills and believable in the decisions of his character.
The supporting cast was a joy to watch, from the shenanigans of Carrie Pipperidge (Rebekah Pearson) and Enoch Snow (Sean O’Brien) to the nefarious Jigger Craigin (Tim Setzer). The musicians were shown to full effect during the Ballet, and the pas de deux of Louise Bigelow (Siena Warnert) and Carnival Boy (Casey Rusher) was well executed, although their individual solos were a bit ragged, particularly the opening sequence of Louise along the beach. She did capture the enraptured playfulness of her character, and subsequent confusion when rejected by the Carnival Boy.
Spreckels’ Carousel portrays the compelling story with vivid accuracy. It is a moving tribute that love can weather any storm, even death itself. Do not miss Jennifer Mitchell’s Julie—she is a jewel in this production, with a voice worthy of the pearly gates that Billy demands so fervently to see.