Theater Review: CLOC's 'Carousel' An Emotional Roller Coaster

Jane Duffy plays mill worker Julie Jordan who falls for carousel barker Billy Bigelow played by Mike McCann in this week's College Light Opera Company's offering of Rodgers and Hammerstein's BRIDGET DRISCOLL - Jane Duffy plays mill worker Julie Jordan who falls for carousel barker Billy Bigelow played by Mike McCann in this week's College Light Opera Company's offering of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Carousel."

Be prepared to laugh out loud, to wince in discomfort, to smile with joy and to shed a tear when you see—and you really should see—the College Light Opera Company’s production of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s  “Carousel.”

The story deals with some heavy topics like oppression of women, family violence and class discrimination, but layers these on top of the more universal theme of how people learn to love each other.

Michael McCann, as Billy Bigelow, a barker at the carousel in a traveling fair, and Jane Duffy, as Julie Jordan, an innocent girl working at the New England wool mill, take you through the highs and lows of the thrill and uncertainty of young love. Their voices are perfect for the tender sentiments of “If I Loved You,” which each of them sings separately at first and then in harmony as the tentativeness of their speculation turns into the scary reality of caring for each other. The audience on opening night enthusiastically approved of these two gifted singers.

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Mr. McCann is brilliant in the long soliloquy about becoming a father. He goes through a gamut of emotions singing about his “boy Bill,” and changes direction and tone convincingly to celebrate the challenge of perhaps being a dad to his “little girl.” It’s a touching scene done well.

Ms. Duffy is equally strong in her solo, “What’s the Use of Won’drin’,” in which she advises her friends to stand by their men. She and Mr. McCann connect in a way that breaks your heart until they finally verbalize their love.

Maggie Langhorne is Carrie and Bruce Barger is her boyfriend, the upright Mr. Snow. Ms. Langhorne does a great job with the lovely lyrics of “When I Marry Mr. Snow,” and she and Mr. Barger are charming in their duet, “When the Children Are Asleep.”

Billy’s false friend Jigger (Jens Jacobson) has a comic scene at the clambake trying to seduce Carrie by teaching her self-defense moves that are worse than no defense at all. His song, “Stonecutters Cut It on Stone,” is a lively skewering of self-righteous hypocrites.

Lindsay Cabaniss as Nettie leads the ensemble in the rousing song and dance numbers, “June is Bustin’ Out All Over” and “A Real Nice Clambake,” and later provides a beautiful solo of “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”

Rebecca Brudner does a 10-minute ballet sequence that reflects all the uncertainties in the life of young Louise Bigelow. Her dance partners are lurid phantoms of the pain and danger of growing up in a class-conscious world.

The Snow children are played enthusiastically by Bourne residents Joey Morisset, Isabella Palumbo, Molly Baptist, Sophia Sederman and Makena Jarvis.

Stage director Mark A. Pearson allows a long silence to fill the hall when Julie tries to finally tell Billy that she loves him. It’s a daring minute in the theater and it works magically. Choreographer Esther Widlanski creates a pantomime of the carousel in the opening prologue that is quite elegant; she mirrors the carousel image in the ballet scene in the second act. Music direction by David B. Weiller treats the Richard Rodgers score with tenderness but allows the energy of June and youth to roar with excitement.

Few Broadway musicals attempt to weave as complex and nuanced a story as “Carousel.” The music itself pulls this one together and this production brings voices, music, dance and staging to create a very memorable night.  The show closes with a reprise of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” and the opening night audience gave an extended standing ovation of appreciation.

“Carousel” continues at Highfield Theater tonight and tomorrow at 8 PM. Tickets are $35 and are available from the CLOC box office at 508-548-0668 or at 58 Highfield Drive in Falmouth. The box office is open Monday to Saturday from 10 AM to 12:30 PM, 2 to 5 PM, and 7 to 9 PM.

Mr. Grace is a summer resident of Pocasset and a frequent reviewer for the Enterprise.

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