Tuesday, April 14, 2015

REVIEW: Carousel at the Lyric Opera

Our family (including the Bear) went to go see Carousel at the Lyric Opera at a recent matinee. It's playing until May 3, so there's still plenty of chances to see it.

The show features a number of Broadway and film stars, including Steve Pasquale (Rescue Me and The Good Wife), Laura Osnes (Cinderella, Grease, South Pacific and Bonnie and Clyde, all on Broadway), Tony Roberts (many Woody Allen films, Promises Promises and Xanadu on Broadway)

There's been some speculation that the show might transfer to Broadway, primarily because of the amount of talent that is in the show.  It's like a Broadway tryout but from the Lyric!

Carousel has several moments that feel like a circus.
The show is strong, the musical performances and acting are very good, but it's a strange story which takes a weird twist in the middle.  

If you are not familiar with the story, here's a simplified outline.

Rough-hewn but handsome carnival barker Billy Bigelow (Pasquale) meets a factory girl Julie Jordan (Laura Osnes).  He loves her at first sight but refuses to admit it.  She loves him at first sight, even though meeting with him will ruin her reputation and lose her job. She does it anyway.  Because he's sleeping with the Carousel owner, he ends up losing his job too.

They move in together/get married, and several months later, Billy is a drunk who beats his wife and hangs out with criminals.  Julie is stalwart in her love and stands by Billy even when he treats her like dirt.  His friend Jigger asks him to rob Julie's former boss, the mill owner with him. At first Billy refuses (he's not quite a criminal yet and is having some moral qualms) but then he finds out that Julie is pregnant.  Here's where he makes a couple of epic bad decisions.  

EPIC BAD DECISION #1: To save his baby, he agrees to rob the mill owner.  In the process, the mill owner pulls a gun, shoots Jigger, and has Billy cornered on the roof.  And then it's revealed the mill owner didn't even have the money on him.  Proving once again, crime does not pay.

EPIC BAD DECISION #2: Rather than turning himself in, he decides to stab himself.  

So far, the story has been clearly in the melodrama camp -- but here's where it gets weird.

Billy dies, and ascends to the backdoor of Heaven, where he meets the Star Catcher, who gives him another chance to get into heaven if he can do some good by visiting Earth once again.  He decides to take the opportunity and meets his daughter, now 15 years of age, although 15 minutes have passed, since Heaven and Earth work on different time scales.  He talks to her but it doesn't seem to do enough, and it looks like he's going down. He asks for an extension and gets it, ending up at her high school graduation. At the graduation, he sees Julie and somehow manages to tell her he loved her.  And this act is apparently enough to get into heaven because that's the end of the story!

The musical is based on an obscure play by Ferenc Molnar called Lilliom, and there's a reason why it's obscure.  The show changes gears mid-stream.  Still, the music is good, and there are several classic songs you will undoubtedly recognize.

I'm not sure how I feel about the story, which seems to set an absurdly low bar for heaven (saying I love you once!) and glorifies a wife-beater and criminal. Still, I thought the performances by the stars were great, and special kudos to Charlotte D'Amboise, who is part of the D'Amboise clan of Broadway royalty.  She plays the owner of the Carousel Mrs. Mullin and is the mom of Kelly D'Amboise, who is the director of the Riverdale Y's dance company, where the bear took tap dance classes!

I also very much appreciated some of the comic relief, which was very well done.  The characters who played Enoch and Carrie (Julie's best friend) were pretty flawless.

I think this production could transfer successfully to Broadway, as its a classic, its well done, and it has tons of star talent.  The show could stand to tighten up 30 minutes (it's almost 3 hours now)  Also, the Lyric has a ton of people in this show, and it will have to have a chorus of 6, not 25!

In retrospect, I'm not sure that it was 100% appropriate for our 6-year-old bear.  He seemed to enjoy it, but there were a couple of sexual innuendo scenes that went over his head and a couple of violence scenes that I'd have preferred he didn't see.  But he did say he liked it, and he sat quietly throughout.  (Of course, he's seen about 50 plays or shows, and knows how to be a great audience member.  Not sure if every kid could do the same.)  I'd say 10 and over is probably best for this show.

To find out more, and to get all kinds of resources about the show, including q&a with the cast and videos with conductor David Chase, visit http://www.lyricopera.org/blog/blogpost.aspx?id=15254

To get tickets for the show, visit http://www.lyricopera.org/carousel/

Use the promo code MUSTSEE to save 20% on all Carousel performances!

Here's the preview video:

And the entire movie is apparently available on YouTube!

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