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a Musical
by Oscar Hammerstein II (book and lyrics), Richard Rodgers (music)

COMPANY : Serenbe Playhouse [WEBSITE]
VENUE : The Inn Meadow at Serenbe [WEBSITE]
ID# 4874

SHOWING : March 24, 2016 - April 10, 2016



In a more innocent time, Americans sought entertainment in the form of carnivals and fairs, where delights of all kinds were just a ticket away. This spring, we invite you to step right up and experience "Carousel," the second installment within the Rodgers & Hammerstein canon featuring the reunited all-star cast of Serenbe Playhouse’s beloved 2014 production of "Oklahoma!" The principals of this adored cast return to tell the tale of Billy Bigelow, his lovely Julie Jordan and their daughter, Louise, in a rendition that highlights the dark undertones of a cruel world juxtaposed with the enduring power of love. Along with the reimagined telling, you’ll find the rolling hills of Serenbe transformed into a turn of the century carnival, complete with cotton candy, games galore, wonders on display and, of course, a carousel. Come and take a whirl!

Director Brian Clowdus
Enoch Snow Daniel Burns
Mrs. Mullin/Starkeeper/Dr. Seldon LaLa Cochran
Nettie Fowler Ally Duncan
Ensemble Andrew Klopach
David Bascombe/Ensemble Matt Lewis
Ensemble Nathan Lubeck
Billy Bigelow Edward McCreary
Carrie Pipperidge Jessica Miesel
Ensemble Hayley Platt
Ensemble Lilliangina Quinones
Julie Jordan Kelly Schmidt
Jigger Craigin Austin Tijerina
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Summer Stock
by playgoer
Monday, March 28, 2016
Performing the musical "Carousel" outdoors in a carnival setting makes for some lovely stage pictures, with an illuminated carousel and Ferris wheel spinning in the background and strings of light bulbs twinkling above. Having a fairway with games and refreshments adds to the carnival spirit before the show and at intermission. This light-hearted environment helps temper the underlying darkness of the show itself.

The entire action doesn’t take place at an amusement park and sideshow, of course. Adam Koch’s scenic design, consisting primarily of a circular wooden platform with a pole center stage, against which a rough-hewn ladder rests, is flexible enough in concept to accommodate the various settings of the script. The steps surrounding the stage are used to good effect too, although two-person scenes on the lip of the stage tend to put an actor’s back to portions of the audience.

Brian Frey’s lighting design relies on general lighting and spotlights, making for some uneven stage pictures, but it is generally effective. Much more damaging for visibility is director Brian Clowdus’ overuse of stage fog, which occasionally engulfs entire sections of the audience in a miasma of scented vapor. A couple of limited uses of the fog, when the script mentions it, would have been fine.

This "Carousel" is as much an event as a performance. Musically, it suffers from Adam Howarth’s sound design, which over-amplifies (except when microphones cut out), and from Chris Brent Davis’ orchestra, which doesn’t sound particularly good playing Richard Rodgers’ iconic score. Most voices aren’t quite equal to the demands of the score either.

The show doesn’t start well, with the tinny orchestra playing the opening notes of the Carousel Waltz to unremarkable dance steps from Kelly Chapin Martin as female lead Julie Jordan. Bubba Carr’s choreography soon kicks into full gear, though, taking us into a sideshow of the imagination. The movement in the show is quite good, with dance particularly impressive in the "Blow High, Blow Low" number led by Austin Tijerina as Jigger Craigin. The movement soon reduces the pedestrian orchestral accompaniment to the background, where it remains firmly ensconced for the rest of the show.

Costumes, designed by Abby Parker, work relatively well, although they’re generally unremarkable except when a petticoat droops to laughable lengths. Rachel Hamilton’s props are serviceable, but baskets of clams seem pretty static, and untouched pies seem an unusual choice after the conclusion of a clambake. Lindsey Ewing’s wig stylings are effective from a distance, but blocking allows the actors, particularly Brittany Ellis as Louise, to come close enough to the audience for the forehead bonding of the wig to be obvious.

Despite any deficiencies in staging or design, the story of this "Carousel" comes through strong and clear. Acting is fine throughout. Kelly Chapin Martin makes Julie Jordan come to life, with a nuanced and beautifully sung performance. Edward McCreary’s performance captures the hair-trigger temper of Billy Bigelow and makes the character believable. Jessica Miesel adds some nice comic touches to the character of Carrie Pipperidge. Her ample size and Mr. Tijerina’s diminutive stature makes their scene together a bit unbalanced, but each impresses as an individual performance. LaLa Cochran scores as the Starkeeper and Dr. Seldon, although there’s little coarseness or over-aged coquettishness in her Mrs. Mullin. The ensemble tends to give the show the feeling of a summer stock production, hurriedly rehearsed and filled with types chosen to work for a variety of roles in a variety of shows. Still, some impress, such as AJ Klopach with his dancing skills and Hayley Platt with her act two opening patter.

Director Brian Clowdus has created a "Carousel" with some indelible visuals and an infectious atmosphere that carries the audience to a New England town (absent New England accents and the scent of salt air). If the musical aspects of the show were more successful, and if some of the secondary leads created more memorable characters, this would be a blockbuster. As it is, it’s a "Carousel" that does the dramatic material justice. And with the power of the story in full display, the show has all the impact it needs to be a success. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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