Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Musical Moments: Carousel

I'm long overdue for a Musical Moments post so in honor of the opening of the much heralded and critically acclaimed revival of South Pacific last week, I've decided to focus on another of Rodgers & Hammerstein's classics: Carousel. This is probably my favorite score of all the R & H shows (The Carousel Waltz is perhaps one of the best orchestral pieces ever written for the musical stage and "If I loved You" is considered by many a near perfect song.) But as with most of Rodgers and Hammerstein, people either love it or they hate it. (Frankly, I think this is because people have seen too many bad productions of these shows, for when they're done well, they are wonderful.) Carousel gets a pretty bad rap for the wife-beating that goes on in the story and particularly for the line when Louise asks her mother, Julie, if it's possible for a man to hit you and not feel it at all, Julie replies "yes". But this in no way promotes spousal abuse. It is simply an accurate portrayal the of psyche of a battered woman, indeed, Louise is in danger of repeating the cycle of dysfunction as we learn in the ballet when she is seduced by a carnival barker similar to her father.

During a visit to one of the grad schools I was accepted at, there was discussion about the importance of doing classic musicals as part of a well-rounded theatre education. While one teacher argued that the R&H shows have been done to death and should be left alone for a while to gain some perspective, another argued that most students age 18 to 22 hadn't been exposed to these classics yet and that there is room for new, modern-day interpretations of the shows. He used the '94 Broadway revival of Carousel as an example of how fresh, new and even avant garde these shows can be conceptualized. He also correctly noted that Rodgers & Hammerstein are the basis for modern musical theatre; that without Oscar Hammerstein there would be no Stephen Sondheim. (Sondheim was protege to Oscar Hammerstein.) I've included a clip from that production of the "You'll Never Walk Alone" scene performed on the Tony awards. You will also note the color-blind casting done in the production: both Cousin Nettie and Carrie Pipperidge, for example, were played by black actresses. Enjoy the clip.








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6 Comments:

At 12:16 PM, Blogger Glenn said...

Yeah! You didn't mention that Carrie was played by ... pardon me while I catch my breath ... Audra McDonald!

 
At 1:31 PM, Blogger TCho said...

Hope you enjoyed my slew of comments! :-) sorry, i took a break from blog reading for a few weeks....

 
At 4:58 PM, Blogger Bryan said...

thanks for that clip! I always think R&H musicals get a bad rap. Everyone always says they are so sappy. Seems to me they all dealt with some tough stuff too (xenophobia, racism, oppression, tyranny). Glad South Pacific is getting some much needed attention. I'm planning a trip up to see it myself whether my partner likes it or not!

 
At 10:58 PM, Blogger Maddog said...

Carousel is my favorite R&H show. I've seen it produced three times and I've loved everyone of them even though one was a high school production. It's only one to three musicals that I know every word to every song.

BTW I just read all of your musical moments posts and you are spot on every time. I guess great minds think a like.

 
At 10:52 AM, Blogger Diane said...

I saw this production (did I see it with you?) and it continues to be one of the best things I've ever seen (up there with the production of Mame starring Angela Landsbury -- I KNOW we saw that together...) Thanks for this. I absolutely love this show. It's up there with my other all-time R&H favorite, Oklahoma! And I can't WAIT to see South Pacific!

 
At 9:04 PM, Blogger Matt said...

I've actually never seen this entire show, but I always get shivers hearing (a good rendition of) this song. I won't tell you how I first came across it, 'cause you'll laugh at me.

 

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