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Friday, May 1, 2015

On a 'Carousel' ride at the Olney


Carey Rebecca Brown (left) is Julie Jordan and Dorea Schmidt is Carrie Pipperidge in Olney Theatre Center's Carousel/Photo by Stan Barouh

Ladies and Gentlemen, round and round we go on the merry-go-round of life, hopping off every now and then to ponder, maybe make a change or two, and jump back on board to join the circus of life. 

Attention, theatre lovers:  If you haven't seen Carousel, this is a "must," and if you have seen it, you'll enjoy the music and story all over again at the Olney Theatre Center  with its largest ever orchestra (12 pieces, under the direction of Christopher Youstra) and a large cast, too.  (The big ones seem to be the most enjoyable.)
Cast members kick up their heels in Olney Theatre Center's Carousel while a newly departed resident watches from above/Photo by Stan Barouh

Richard Rodgers (music) and Oscar Hammerstein II (book and lyrics) are on stage again, with another grand musical, not following the happy-go-lucky concept of most big-scale shows, but telling a story with a serious message.

Of those he wrote, Rodgers called Carousel his favorite musical, and Jason Loewith, Olney's artistic director and director for this production, says, in program notes, it's the "best musical yet written," a opinion similar to Time magazine's which called it the best musical of the 20th century.  (The Olney show is a celebration of the 70th anniversary of Carousel on Broadway.)

We welcome the enduring songs, "If I Loved You" and "When You Walk Through A Storm" which frame the drama of a carnival worker, Billy Bigelow, in the late 19th century who walks too far on the wild side while pursuing his love who becomes his wife, Julie Jordan, now expecting their first child.  Temptation and necessity lead Billy astray once more. 

Where does he land?

Domestic abuse, likely an unspoken issue when the play was brought to Broadway in 1945, is an underlying subject, skillfully woven throughout the presentation and one we hear plenty about now, with good reason.

With his rich, deep voice and strong presence, 
Tally Sessions was a booming Billy Bigelow when I saw Olney's Carousel, but he has since moved on to New York for School of Rock, replaced by Cooper Grodin, newly off the road as Phantom in, of the Opera). Carey Rebecca Brown is Julie whose delicate voice in many scenes does  not overcome the orchestra.  
Tally Sessions (left) as Billy Bigelow and Chris Genebach as Jigger in Olney Theatre Center's Carousel/Photo by Stan Barouh
 
A couple who play second-fiddle to Billy and Julie are the humorists and marvelous vocalists, Dorea Schmidt as Carrie Pipperidge and Eugenio Vargas as Enoch Snow, who court, marry and reproduce in grand fashion, delivering beautiful melodies and funny lines, which are welcome content.

A bad boy is as bad as his name sounds, Jigger (Chris Genebach), superbly convincing as the conniving scoundrel who tries to thwart one romance by stealing the girl, and enticing Billy to join him on the wrong side of the tracks. Does he succeed?


Tommy Rapley, the choreographer, created exquisite dances, especially the one for Billy and Julie's daughter, Louise (Maya Brettell), whose grace and style at the closing bring hope.

Costumes in beige and muted colors, designed in Victorian/Edwardian styles by Seth Gilbert, are faithful renditions of the time period.

Small lights which change colors outline large, almost complete circles, one inside the other, to carry the theme of the whirling carousel on which the orchestra, on a level above, plays. For most of the production a darkened stage sets the tone.

Other cast members are David Bascombe as Russell Sunday, Eileen Ward who is Mrs. Mullin, and Delores King Williams, Nettie Fowler.

The ensemble features MaryLee Adams, Ian Berlin, Gracie Jones, Christopher Mueller, Henry Niepoetter, Taylor Elise Rector, Leo Christopher Sheridan, Suzanne Stanley, Russell Sunday, Henry Barartz, Carlos Castillo, Joshua Dick, Simon Diesenhaus, Kevin Grieco, Griffin McCahill, and Nicholas Schaap.
The design team includes Milagros Ponce De Leon, scenics; Jen Schriever, lighting; Tony Angelini, sound; Zachary Borovay, projections; Ben Cunis, fight choreographer; and J. Morgan White, ensemble member and dance captain.

What: Carousel which is based on the play, Liliom, by Ferenc Molnar and adapted by Benjamin F. Glazer

When: Now through May 24, 2015 at 8 p.m., Wednesdays through Saturdays, with weekend matinees at 2 p.m., and a 2 p.m. matinee, Wednesday, May 6.   (Extended. Again.)


Where: Olney Theatre Center, 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road, Olney, MD 20832

How much: Tickets start at $38, with discounts for military, groups, seniors, and students. Recommended for ages 12 and up.

Duration: 2 hours and 40 minutes with one intermission.

Refreshments: Available for purchase and may be taken to seats.

Parking: Abundant, free, and on-site

For more information: 301-924-3400

For more reviews of Carousel and other plays, go to
DC Metro Theater Arts.


patricialesli@gmail.com
 

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