'Carousel' will tug at your heartstrings

I thought "South Pacific" was good and "Show Boat" a real tear-jerker, but seen through a prism of similar lost chances, "Carousel" spoke even louder and truer.The musical, which opened at the Downey Theatre on May 28 and runs through June 13, is about a couple of ill-starred lovers, and their offspring, who suffer existential hell but end in redemption for the devil-may-care husband and hope for his wife and daughter. This is a musical, of course, and the familiar songs, "If I Loved You," "June is Bustin' Out All Over," "A Real Clambake," "What's the Use of Wond'rin'," and "You'll Never Walk Alone," singly usually just vibrating in the memory unlocked a flood of emotions when discerned in full relief. The songs were written by Richard Rodgers, the lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein, and despite DCLO's bare-bones (but still elegant) production, the topnotch cast and crew, along with the musical direction, manage to lift "Carousel" to the top tier of DCLO offerings over the seasons. By the way, as executive director and emcee extraordinaire Marsha Moode pointed out, this is the first time in 27 years the musical has come to Downey. Robert Standley, who starred in his first Downey appearance as Curly in "Oklahoma," stars as Billy Bigelow, the booted-out ladykiller carnival barker whose life is a study in tragedy even after he marries a lovestruck but equally stubborn millworker, Julie Jordan, played by Jill Van Velzer. Velzer was seen here previously as Laurey in "Oklahoma" and Fiona in "Brigadoon." Other lead characters are the starkeeper/Dr. Seldon, played by Ed Krieger, who has played many parts for DCLO productions (Lazar Wolf in "Fiddler on the Roof"; Clem Rogers in "The Will Rogers Follies"); Jigger, Billy's friend who's of questionable character, played by another frequent DCLO performer, George Champion; Carrie, a co-worker and close friend of Julie's, played by Andrea Dodson, a music degree holder and seen here previously in Downey as Phyllis Dale in "42nd Street" and Ginger in "Dames at Sea"; Mr. Snow, the local fisherman who marries Carrie and whose nose-to-the-grindstone ethos is rewarded with a measure of wealth, played by 13-time DCLO performer Kit Wilson (Nicely Nicely in "Guys and Dolls," Evert Dunlap in "The Music Man," the Padre in "Man of La Mancha"); Mrs. Mullins, the carousel owner drawn to Billy, played by Valerie Jasso, whose past DCLO credits include "Oliver," "My Fair Lady" and "Rodgers and Hart: A Celebration"; and Nettie Fowler, Julie's cousin, played by perennial DCLO presence Ann Peck McBride, familiar to Downey audiences for her lead roles in such plays as "The King & I," "The Sound of Music," "Hello, Dolly," and "Fiddler on the Roof". "Carousel" is an adaptation of the original play, Liliom, written by the transplanted Hungarian dramatist/novelist Ferenc Molnar (1878-1952), whose works include "The Guardsman," whose plot was used for the film version of "The Chocolate Soldier" and "The Swan" (whose film version was Grace Kelly's last movie). Time magazine is said to have named it the best musical of the 20th century. Rodgers and Hammerstein, whose teaming has been acknowledged as the most successful partnership in Broadway musical history, also collaborated on colossal hits "Oklahoma," "South Pacific," "The King and I," and "The Sound of Music." Rodgers is also noted for his "Victory at Sea" score. Tickets (group rates are available) may be obtained by calling the box office at (562) 923-1714.

********** Published: June 4, 2010 - Volume 9 - Issue 7