It's amazing how much really bad stuff happens in theater that nobody notices because of the pretty music.
Davis Musical Theatre Company opened Rodgers & Hammerstein's 'Carousel' on Friday, and I must have been listening more closely this time: I was appalled by the line, 'Can someone hit you really hard, but you hardly feel it at all?'
This from the daughter who has just been slapped by her ghost-dad, reminding her mother of the slap she had received from her husband, before his death. If the tunes are memorable and the clambake fun, we don't notice that the authors have just made spousal and child abuse somehow 'romantic.'
But that's neither here nor there in reviewing DMTC's delightful production, directed and choreographed by Jan Isaacson.
Matt Provencal plays Billy Bigelow, a ne'er-do-well carnival barker who falls in love with Julie Jordan (Karina Summers), a local factory worker. Provencal is a newcomer to DMTC, and he's quite a find. He has a wonderful voice, and he partners well with Summers, a DMTC veteran.
Billy's soliloquy, pondering the monumental prospect of becoming a father, is particularly good.
Summers gives Julie a quiet, gentle, loving presence that carries her from infatuation with Billy, despite his abusive treatment of her, to raising his daughter as a single parent following his death.
The rapid development of the relationship between Billy and Julie shines a spotlight on how different things were in turn-of-the-20th century America, where girls were 'loose' if they even talked with a fella without a friend around to chaperone.
Both Billy and Julie lose their jobs over an innocent conversation, and end up getting married instead. Go figure!
Julie's friend, Carrie Pipperidge, is played by Eimi Stokes: just as adorable and endearing as she could be. Carrie has her cap set on Mr. Snow (Jason Hammond), and the two go on to marry and have seven little Snows. Stokes lights up the stage whenever she appears, and her energy is infectious.
Hammond's Mr. Snow is suitably pompous and quietly domineering in his relationship with Carrie, and he makes an absolutely perfect 19th century head of the household.
Deborah Douglas Hammond, whose character seemed somehow out of place in an earlier DMTC production of 'The Cat in the Hat,' comes into her own as the motherly Nettie, who takes Julie under her wing following Billy's death. Hammond sings the showstopping 'You'll Never Walk Alone,' and does so beautifully.
Lydia Smith is a lovely Louise, Billy's 15-year-old daughter, whom we first meet dancing on the beach in a beautiful ballet number choreographed by Isaacson. Louise is a combination of Julie's gentle soul and Billy's spunk, and Smith brings her to life quite convincingly.
Nathan Mack is more slimy than menacing as Jigger, the guy who convinces Billy to rob the mill owner, to get money for the baby Billy has just discovered he has fathered.
Marguerite Morris plays Mrs. Mullins, who owns the carousel for which Billy works. Isaacson has written additional dialogue for the character, which brings her relationship with Billy full circle, and is a nice addition to the script. Morris, without a song to sing in this show, embodies the crusty Mullins and does a nice job with her.
Jean Henderson has created a beautiful array of costumes, all nicely befitting the era. I particularly liked the soft, muted colors and textures she used for Julie, and the contrast with the bold, bright colors and crisp textures for Carrie, visually expressing the personalities of each.
Jen Berry's scenic design works well, and includes a working carousel for the opening scene. There's also a particularly nice dock scene, as everyone gets ready for the first clambake of the season.
At a bit over three hours, this is a long show, but it's filled with familiar tunes like 'If I Loved You' and 'June Is Busting Out All Over,' in addition to 'You'll Never Walk Alone.'
If you concentrate on the music, the dancing, the costumes and the clambake - and overlook the plot's negative parts - 'Carousel' makes for an enjoyable evening.