A cast of hundreds! Well...dozens. But when the curtain opened on the Davis Musical Theatre production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Carousel," it seemed like hundreds. Director Jan Isaacson and set designer George Soffos put together a carnival atmosphere, complete with belly dancers and a real carousel. Combined with a lovely mix of costumes by Jean Henderson, and the beautiful Carousel Waltz played by the 9-piece backstage orchestra it was a visual delight.
"Carousel," first seen on Broadway in 1945, was the second collaboration of Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein who had, two years before, given the world "Oaklahoma!" It was "Carousel" which solidified the colaboration and established the duo as an institution of American theatre.
With such familiar songs as "You'll Never Walk Alone," "If I loved you" and "June is bustin' out all over," the show is a sure-fire audience pleaser.
The DMTC production is filled with strong voices and marks the debut of some wonderful new performers to the DMTC family.
Heading the list is Frank Salamone as Billy Bigelow, the ne'er do well carnival barker who falls in love with Julie Jordan, a local factory worker. Salamone is a powerful presence on stage, though the apparent age disparity between himself and Amy Schoedel (Julie) affected the chemestry between them. He also had some difficulties staying on pitch in spots, which may have been a case of opening night jitters.
Schoedel, in her sixth season with DMTC, has a lovely clear soprano and was an endearing Julie, innocent in her infatulation with Billy, devoted even in the face of his abusive treatment of her, and steadfast in the raising of their daughter as a single mother, after Billy's death.
Andrea St. Clair as Julie's friend Carrie Pipperidge is a real DMTC find. She is making her debut with the company and was a delight to watch on stage, both as the love-struck young girl preparing to marry her Mr. Snow and, with the passage of time, as the older mother of 10.
Matt Dunn, as Mr. Snow, is returning to DMTC after a 3 year absence and was a welcome addition to the cast. He was also choreographer for "Carousel" and has created a number of complex dance numbers so skillfully, that it is difficult to distinguish the non-dancers from the trained dancers.
The ever dependable Ben Bruening played Jigger, who convinces Billy to rob the mill owner to get some money for his expected baby. Bruening was effective as the villain and deserved the good natured hisses he received at the curtain call.
Catherine Hagan returns to DMTC to play the maternal Nettie Fowler, who takes Julie under her wing after Billy's death. She handles her big moment, the emotional "You'll Never Walk Alone" quite nicely.
Julie & Billy's young daughter, Louise was competently played by Stephanie Skewes.
Sets for this production were minimal--sometimes almost non-existent (a very long scene with only a bench on stage), but one forgives such lapses in a company which is saving its pennies to build it's very own new theatre (set to open in time for next season).
At nearly three hours, this is a long show, somewhat extended by a fairly slow pace, which may pick up as the show contiues its run and the actors become more comfortable in their roles. But DMTC fans will not be disappointed. The faces of the small children singing out "You'll Never Walk Alone" with the adults in the final scene is a wonderful indication of how much love has gone into this production and how much effort everyone has put into it.