Six horses, complete with saddles, come alive to one of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein’s lyrical compositions, as the costumed dancers shake their manes, dig their hooves and prance through each unfolding eight-count in their interpretation of the beautiful carnival animals coming alive in the musical “Carousel.”
[nose]A co-production of the MSU Departments of Opera and Theater, “Carousel” brings the story of innocent mill worker Julie Jordan and her love Billy Bigelow, the rough carousel barker, to the Fairchild stage. The audience follows Jordan, played by music education junior Shelagh Brown, as she falls in love with Bigelow, played by theater junior Nathaniel Nose, during her ride on the carousel. Although the townsfolk chide the romance of the all-American girl and her less-than-honest man, Julie and Billy continue with their marriage and life together. However, their relationship turns rocky as out-of-work and frustrated Billy begins abusing Julie.
[carousel]“He’s a coward. He’s that red-blooded American male who refuses to be vulnerable,” said Nose of his character. “He doesn’t have any redeeming qualities, save one. He’s just a bad guy.”
When Billy must resort to robbery to support his then pregnant wife, he gets mixed up with villainous Jigger Craigen. A murder ensues and Billy commits suicide to avoid his inevitable prison sentence and the shame that it would bring to his family.
Years go by and Billy is given a second chance to return to earth to visit his wife and child for a day. By this time fifteen years have passed and his daughter is now a blossoming teenager, coping with growing up and the burden of a nagging and infamous legacy left by her father.
The musical numbers throughout the production illustrate the story and bring a light-hearted element to the otherwise dark plot. Throughout the “Carousel Waltz,” the town anticipates the arrival of the exciting new ride, and the men raise the topper for the centerpiece of the production. Each dancer is then delicately placed in their frozen poses to begin the number and transform into living horses.
“It’ll be a different twist. Something no one else has ever done and that’s all the more reason to do it,” said Professor Dixie Durr, the show’s choreographer. “They’re all fancy and they’re all beautiful in their own way,” she said of each horse.
Getting ready for the first clambake of the season, the men are anxious for the women-folk to finish all of the last minute preparations. The exuberance of “June Is Bustin’ Out All Over” gives off a flirty tone with clinging couples and kissing lovers.
As the sailors come into port in “Blow High, Blow Low” the male portion of the cast shoulders the dancing and singing responsibilities. Punctuated with an ending formation that creates the nose of a ship, complete with a “maiden” on front, the number should prove to be energetic and funny.
Renowned creative duo Rodgers and Hammerstein collaborated in 1944 to create the second of many musical masterpieces in “Carousel.” Adapted from the opera “Liliom” by Hungarian writer Ferenec Molnar, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s version takes place in coastal Maine in the late 1800’s and tackles many complicated issues, especially poignant for the time in which is was written.
Although Rodgers and Hammerstein are famous for the many productions they have written together, including “Oklahoma!”, “The Sound of Music” and “South Pacific”, it was “Carousel” that was named “Best Musical of the Century” by Time Magazine in 1999.
“It’s a ground-breaking in that it deals with many dark issues,” said director and assistant professor of voice Melanie Helton. “It’s an interesting story about domestic violence, a classic bad guy and ultimate redemption.”
The production is a shift from what most students expect in musical theater. The eye-opening plot and prevailing message will appeal to many, even those who are not typically fans.”
“It’s a serious, dark story,” said Nose. “You’re not coming to see a fluff musical.”
“Carousel” opens on Thursday, November 18 at 7:30 p.m. at the Fairchild Theater in the Auditorium. Friday and Saturday nights’ shows are at 8:00 p.m. The production ends its run with a Sunday matinee at 3:00 p.m. Tickets are available at the Wharton Center Box Office (as well as by phone at 1-800-Wharton and at whartoncenter.com ). Rates are $8 for students/children, $12 for senior citizens and $16 for adults.

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