BWW Review: CAROUSEL at Actors' Playhouse - Oh, But I Do Love You, Richard and Oscar
Oh, But I Do Love You, Richard and Oscar
As the lights dim at Actors' Playhouse there's a sweet sense of nostalgia wafting through the theatre. Classics from the forties drift into mind: If I Loved You, Mr Snow, June is Bustin' Out All Over, When the Children are Asleep, A Real Nice Clambake, You'll Never Walk Alone.
Lights up and it's the 1870s on New England's Maine coast. You're watching The Carousel Waltz as director David Arisco's twenty-five member cast, and what a cast they are, open their revival of 1945's CAROUSEL in a swirl of brilliant costumes, glorious singing, dancing and music from show business heaven.
Sure, it may be creaky by our over pleasured standards and it's maybe a little long for our twitter minds, but every minute of Rodgers and Hammerstein's CAROUSEL reflects Actors' Playhouse thirty years of excellent musicals.
Michael Hunsaker, the epitome of a tall, broad shouldered, good looking, musical hero smoking with talent, is Billy Bigelow, barker at itchy for the boy Mrs Mullin's (Laura Turnbull) town carousel. He loves the girls who ride and they love him and he's more than happy. Until he meets the quietly cute but I know what I want and I'll certainly get it Julie, the perfectly cast Julie Kleiner. Julie and Billy Marry and the usual ensues. She gets knocked up, and he delighted, manages to knock himself off.
Bitter sweet doesn't begin to cover the shift to Heaven where Billy meets the Starkeeper, the delightfully acerbic Peter Haig. It's now fifteen years later in halo time, fifteen dead minutes for Billy. Per Pearly Gate rules he gets one chance to return to life for one day to meet his now teen age daughter, but of course he screws that up, too. The Starkeeper, however, being a sucker for a sob story as well as a nice old guy, gives Billy one more chance to declare his love for Julie and their daughter and bang in a flash he's back in his own back yard.
Seems I've jumped to the closing curtain way too soon so here're the other super talented players. There's Nick Duckart as the swarthy, no good sailor Jigger, who plays Billy like an organ grinder, big voiced Lauren Lukacek playing Carrie, Julie's best friend who falls for Enoch Snow, played with loving panache by Mark Sanders and speaking of knocking up, they have more kids than countable and yes, they do appear.
Lourelene Snedeker is the clambake queen and she too, sings the sand right off the stage. Kevin Reilly is the screwed tight, God is my light, factory owner, Mr Bascombe, and is also the school principal at the finale graduation ceremony where Peter Haig returns as the weirdly kindly Doctor Seldon.
And deserving mention all by themselves are Alexandra Van Hasselt as Billy's daughter, Louise who performs the ballet scene with Macia McGeorge, an especially supple and engaging dancer.
Speaking of dancing, you're going to be delighted with choreographer Ron Hutchins' spectacular work and his splendidly acrobatic dancers. Clad in Ellis Tillman's gorgeous costumes they light up the theatre. And that's a good thing, because I found the lighting generally too dim.
Caryl Fantel is the musical director and she also conducts the excellent eight piece orchestra: Rupert Ziawinski bass, Roy Fantel drums/percussion, Karen Nagy keyboard 2, Jean-Claude Misset trumpet, Jason Pyle trombone, Andrea GilBert Woodwinds and Liuba Ohrimenco violin.
Tim Bennett produced a set of many multi purpose colorful flats: factory, carousel, forest, apartment, clam stand, house, dock, tavern, island, beach, heaven and on and on. Lights were designed by Eric Nelson and the sound by Shaun Mitchell. Jodi Dellaventura designed the properties. The wigs showing the passing of the years are the work of Gerard Kelly.
David Arisco perfectly captures the tenor of 1940s musicals, clunks included. It's a lovingly produced revival of a lovely old show and by golly, I loved it.
CAROUSEL plays through February 26 at Actors' Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre, 280 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables. 305-444-9293 http://actorsplayhouse.org
Credit: Alberto Romeu