“How to Handle a Woman”
A review of the revival of
Rogers & Hammerstein‘s “Carousel”
I am not particularly fond of Rogers & Hammerstein‘s “Carousel”.
Even though much of the music is among my favorite in the Rogers & Hammerstein catalogue, save for the Soliloquy which to me is a cringe worthy 6 minutes – I even joked pre-show that Soliloquy was my early intermission bathroom break, to hear a brilliant Rogers & Hammerstein score played by a Broadway orchestra is one of the reasons that I decided to attend this Revival,
Much to my dismay I did not even get that.
The orchestrations were flat, two dimensional representations, and the sound design by Mr. Scott Lehrer woefully underwhelming. Sitting in the Orchestra I expected the music to be spectacular but I was sadly disappointed – especially after the recent multi-million dollar remodel of the Imperial Theatre.
I also could just not get past “Carousel’s” main character, Billy Bigelow, the dishonest, wife-beating, carnival barker not being portrayed by a white actor.
Go ahead, get it out of your system, start calling me all kinds of names (you’d be totally wrong) but here’s the thing – perhaps it’s conditioning, perhaps it’s purism, I’m not sure, but in my mind the connotations of such a vile character being played by a Black man is just wrong. The thought kept going through my mind, ‘Why would any person of color agree to play this role?” As far as performance goes, Josh Henry nails it, and nails it strong. His smooth, silk like, baritone voice in any other role would, and have, taken me to great heights emotionally.
Throughout the entire show I felt like I was at a performance of MCC’s Miscast. Great voices cast in the wrong roles.
Further, while I have always felt that the part of Julie Jordan, played by a delightful, if not completely doe-eyed and confused Ms. Jessie Mueller, is terribly underwritten, there were times Mr. Jack Doyle, the Director seemed to forget Julie/Jesse was even in the show. More disappointment came from Ms. Renée Fleming, whose gorgeous operatic soprano voice is just too prim and proper to be Aunt Nettie.
Then there’s the casting of a Middle Eastern actor, the talented and graceful ballet dancer, Amar Ramasar, making his Broadway (and possibly acting) debut, to play “Jigger”, another monster of a character. This is yet another dangerous step towards stereotyping. Every time I heard Billy Bigelow call his name I thought he was using the N-word .
There is some good news. The shining stars of the show were most definitely the lark-voiced Ms. Lindsay Mendez who portrayed Carrie Pipperidge with a delightful and quirky style to her that played extremely well off of Mr. Alexander Gemignani’s playfully-teasing Mr. Enoch Snow. As a matter of fact, Mr. Gemignani’s performance is award worthy in my opinion.
I must also admit to you that while I tend to tune out the seemingly obligatory ballet sequences of most early 20th century musical theater, Ms. Brittany Pollock and Mr. Andrei Chagas were graceful and visually stunning in the Fairground Ballet sequence – a great tribute to the fabulous Choreography of Mr. Justin Peck.
Santo Loquasto’s scenic design was executed well, although there were too many ‘played in front of the curtain’ scenes while scenery was being noisily shuffled around Backstage. Note to Production: PLEASE Oil the stage right light motors and the sheer curtain pulleys.
Sadly, Ms. Ann Roth’s costumes look like they have been recycled from my high school production of ‘Oklahoma!’ And what’s with those baggy pants that come up to the men’s bellies?
The lighting design by Brian McDevitt left me squinting many times to see what was happening on stage and again, that was from Orchestra Row M – I can only imagine what it was like up in the oxygen-tank seats.
Speaking of seats, it appears to me that when they remodeled the theater after “The Great Comet“ they added many more seats then there were before. In my cushy (read expensive) Orchestra seat I was sucking on my knees or more annoyingly to her, scraping the back of the chair of the lady in front of me.
All that being said, I haven’t told you the worst part:
I DIDN’T CRY!!!
Me – the person who “cries at everything” – DIDN’T CRY!!!
If you’ll remember, I said up front that I’m not the biggest fan of this show – BUT when I DO see it I always CRY – ALWAYS! This tells me everything I need to know.
All said, the audience seemed to love the show, hooting and hollering along with their thunderous applause, it was a Press Preview, so perhaps you too will enjoy Rodger’s & Hammerstein’s Carousel as much as they did.
Me, I’m still optimistically looking forward to Lincoln Center’s revival of “My Fair Lady”