BWW Reviews: Utah Rep Presents Ambitious CAROUSEL
Utah Repertory Theater's ambitious production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's CAROUSEL at the Murray Theater has a number of strengths.
CAROUSEL (music by Richard Rodgers, book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II) begins as local mill worker Julie Jordan falls in love with carnival barker and womanizer Billy Bigelow. It recounts the couple's individual and shared journeys through life's difficulties and beyond.
Although the show has structural and narrative issues, the uplifting theme of redemption is strong and permeates this staging.
The undeniable star of this production is Samuel Ross West as Billy Bigelow. More than his pleasant singing voice, his acting in this role is truly exceptional. Every word, expression, and mannerism is inhabited by the character he plays.
Other strong vocalists in the show include Amber Lee Roberts (Julie Jordan), Scott Cluff (Enoch Snow), Mimi West (Carrie Pipperidge), and Serena Kanig Benish (Nettie Fowler, double cast with Valura Arnold).
Music director Melissa Thorne has done a superb job with the choral numbers. The ensemble sings its music clearly and lushly.
Special recognition is also in order for a male ensemble that rivals its female counterpart in size, energy, and talent. This is no small feat in community theatre.
The dancing was well conceived by choreographer William Cooper Howell and assistant choreographer Christy Hodder, and it is well executed by the cast. However, some of the staging, including musical numbers, is stagnant and would benefit from more movement and a smaller ensemble in the space.
Unquestionably, the highlight of this production is the Act II dream ballet, danced by Elsa Hodder (Louise) and Johnny Wilson (Carnival Boy). The sequence was crafted and is performed with immense skill and emotion. It is filled with beauty in every sense of the word and raises the rest of the production to a higher plane.
If you are a fan of CAROUSEL or have always been curious to see it onstage, you should embrace this window of opportunity to see it.
Carousel plays at the Murray Theater through August 24, 2013. To buy tickets and for more information, visit www.utahrep.org.
Photo Credit: L-R Amber Lee Roberts (Julie Jordan) and Samuel Ross West (Billy Bigelow). Photo by Jaron Hermansen/Underground Creative.