August is Bustin’ Out All Over with Talent at Incline Theatre’s “Carousel”
Review by Doug Iden
“August is Bustin’ Out All Over” as the Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classic Carousel swirls into the Incline Theater. Based upon the Hungarian play Liliom with the setting switched to Cape Cod, Carousel depicts the ill-fated romance of an egotistical but laggard carnival barker Billy Bigelow (Jeremiah Plessinger) and the naïve but strong-willed Julie Jordan (Lauren Everett) in the late 1800’s.
This is a significant play historically because it bridges the chasm between Broadway musical comedy (as pure entertainment) to musical theater which blends the music and lyrics into the storytelling and addresses more adult themes. The architect of this transition is Oscar Hammerstein starting with Show Boat in 1927 (with Jerome Kern), through Oklahoma (with Rodgers) and then Carousel.
The “Carousel Waltz” reenacts a carnival setting with show girls, a weightlifter, customers and carnie games. Co-choreographed by Jay and Jenny Goodlett, the large and extremely talented cast dazzles with a combination of ballet and athleticism aided by carousel horses and other props by Brett Bowling and a dizzying variety of carnival costumes by Allison Jones.
We meet Billy, the star barker filled with bravado and oozing charm, who becomes mesmerized by Julie, a repeat customer who works in a local mill. Julie and her friend and co-worker, Carrie Pipperidge (Katie McCarthy), discuss their dreary working conditions and their love lives (or lack thereof). Carrie sings of her bewilderment at Julie’s behavior in the delightful duet “You’re a Queer One, Julie Jordan” and then tells Julie that she is in love and enthralls with “When I Marry Mister Snow”.
A landmark scene in the evolution of musical comedy to musical theater is capsulized in the Bench Scene which melds dialogue, lyrics and the iconic “If I Loved You” sung initially by Julie and then by Billy. This is the third of Hammerstein’s “conditional” songs which shows, dramatically, the wariness, reluctance and possible lack of commitment by Billy even though he is singing a love song. Acing this scene is crucial to a successful production and both Everett and Plessinger score high marks with their singing and acting.
Next, we meet Nettie Fowler (Kelsey Chandler), Julie’s cousin, and the crew in the rousing “June is Busting Out All Over” with another excellent dance and music production. Julie is now married to Billy and the relationship is not going well. Carrie, however, is continuing her romance with Enoch Snow (Sean Miller-Jones) who sing the amusing duet “When the Children Are Asleep”.
As a whaling community, there are many sailors who are introduced in the hornpipe “Blow High, Blow Low”, another major dancing production, including the malevolent Jigger Craigon (Dan Cohen) who tries to steer the unemployed Billy into a life of crime. When Julie tells him that she is pregnant, he sings the dramatic “Soliloquy”, where he dreams of playing ball and teaching his son about girls. But, in the turning point of the plot, he realizes that his child could be a girl. With the line “You can have fun with a son but you’ve got to be a father to a girl”, the show pivots into a darker reality. This song must be acted as well as sung and Plessinger excels. (The last part of his name is “singer” and he proves it.)
Without giving up the whole plot, all of the elements combine into an excellent production of this timeless show directed by Dee Anne Bryll. The singing is very high quality (especially McCarthy, Everett, Plessinger, Chandler and Miller-Jones) and the dancing is superb and creative with both carnival and maritime themes. Bowling’s set continues the maritime theme with a lighthouse, a ramp from the side and a floor painted with a sand and ocean motif. The 29-person cast is costumed in a wide variety of clothes, all following the early New England theme. Denny Reed’s lighting includes “stars”, bubbles in the sky and side-lighting which illuminates dancing on the side walls of the theater. Executive Artist Director Tim Perrino has compiled an excellent summer season.
So, grab a “Carousel” horse, pack a lunch and trot down to the clambake at the incline Theater through September 11. Purchase tickets HERE.