Carousel: Rodgers and Hammerstein's Classic American Musical
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The last date listed for Carousel was Saturday August 6, 2011 / 8:00pm.
Currently at Arsenal Center for the Arts
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Carousel was the second musical written by the team of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. Their first was Oklahoma!, arguably the most pivotal work of art in the genre known as the American musical.
Based on Ferenc Molnár’s Hungarian drama Liliom, which opened in Budapest in 1909, Carousel’s story takes place on the coast of Maine in 1873 where Julie Jordan, a young, beautiful millworker, falls hopelessly in love with Billy Bigelow, the handsome, charismatic but troubled barker at the town’s carousel. Immediately fired by his jealous older-woman boss, Billy becomes a frustrated, unemployed, undereducated ladies’ man with a bleak future. Julie sees only the man she’s going to marry, which she does to disastrous results. In a misguided attempt to support his pregnant wife, Billy agrees to rob the town’s lucrative mill with his criminal whaler friend, Jigger. Things turn sour, and Billy learns that his actions on earth have great consequences for those around him.
Author Ethan Mordden on Richard Rodgers’ ground-breaking decision to forgo an overture:
“Other characters catch our notice—Mr. Bascombe, the pompous mill owner, Mrs. Mullin, the widow who runs the carousel and, apparently, Billy; a dancing bear; an acrobat. But what draws us in is the intensity with which Julie regards Billy—the way she stands frozen, staring at him, while everyone else at the fair is swaying to the rhythm of Billy’s spiel. And as Julie and Billy ride together on the swirling carousel, and the stage picture surges with the excitement of the crowd, and the orchestra storms to a climax, and the curtain falls, we realize that Rodgers and Hammerstein have not only skipped the overture and the opening number but the exposition as well. They have plunged into the story, right into the middle of it, in the most intense first scene any musical ever had.”