By PAM HARBAUGH
At Titusville Playhouse’s center stage sits a scenic unit representing a carousel. It not only symbolizes dizzying life on the verge of spinning out of control, but as it houses a 22-musician orchestra, it also becomes the heart of the show — the beautiful music flooding every pore of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s swellingly romantic and sumptuously lyrical “Carousel.”
Indeed, as directed by Alexander Nathan, the production scoots very close to being a staged concert of the music, which is just fine and dandy because there are some splendid voices and, well, that orchestra, conducted by music director Michael Coppola, is simply wonderful.There are also some terrific voices in this show as well. It stars Sarah Camp as Julie, the innocent young woman who defies repressive social decorum (and dresses that fit properly) to hang out with brooding and tough Billy Bigelow, the carousel barker. Coming from hard scrapple backgrounds, the two find something exciting in each other.
Alexander Browne is Billy, one of the theater’s early anti-heroes. While he can’t all together shake that romantic lead appeal that he had as Marius in TPI’s “Les Miserables,” Mr. Browne does bring out a bit of the tough and tender to Billy, the complex bad boy quality that attracts Julie. He and Ms. Camp hit their high water musical moment with the beautifully sung “If I Loved You.” Mr. Browne is especially winning in the famed “Soliloquy” number when he sings “My boy Bill…”
Keisha Marie Gill makes a splendid, most likeable Carrie and has some fun moments when she sings about her beloved, “Mister Snow.” Opposite her is Kyle McDonald who charms as Enoch Snow.
Kristen Sellers excels as Nettie, the compassionate soul who not only arranges that “real nice clambake” but also sings “You’ll Never Walk Alone” to Julie who grieves over Billy’s dead body.
Was that a spoiler? Not really. This unhappy turn of events happens long before the end of the storyline. Billy joins murderous Jigger (Benjamin Youmans brings out some good darkness here) and dies when a robbery goes wrong. He eventually finds his way to the afterlife where me meets the kindly Starkeeper. (Here, the director chooses to have two Starkeepers who speak the same lines at the same time which is both odd and annoying.)
Sarah Cruz and Karen Lundy choreograph the sweet waltz opening and create a clever impression of people riding the carousel.
But there’s one thing that can’t be overcome with “Carousel” — that troublesome ending which jolts contemporary sensibilities. In the story, after Billy’s death, 15 years flash by in a wink and he is sent home to help his now teenage daughter, Louise (delightfully danced by Rachel Erickson). He gets frustrated, slaps her hand then disappears. She cries, her mother, Julie, comes running out and states the line that makes you want to stick your fingers in your ears: “It’s possible, dear – for someone to hit you – hit you hard and not hurt at all.”
But really, this is all about the music. It is gorgeous. You’ll leave the theater humming those glorious tunes for days.
To see a video of the opening night excitement, click here.
SIDE O’ GRITS: “Carousel” runs through March 15 at Titusville Playhouse, 301 Julia St., Titusville. Tickets are $22 and $25 with discounts available for students, seniors and military. Call 321-268-1125 or visit www.TitusvillePlayhouse.com.