Broadway Blip: Carousel
With the forthcoming revival of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic Carousel set to open, I thought it would be fun to look back on the controversial gem from 1945. Based on the popular Ferenc Molnar play Liliom, but transposed from its original Hungarian setting to a New England fishing village in the United States, Carousel tells the story of factory worker Julie Jordan, a stubborn young woman who falls in love with a handsome, but troubled, carousel barker with a traveling carnival. Despite cautions from friends and family, Julie marries the man who has been fired from his job. Lack of money and his tendency toward violence sees their romance devolve into a situation of domestic violence. When Julie reveals she is pregnant, Billy must find a way to raise money to support his family. A robbery goes bad, and rather than be taken into custody, Billy kills himself. He finds himself awaiting his judgment in heaven. He is sent back to earth to make amends for his egregious treatment of his wife and his abandonment of his now fifteen-year-old daughter. He clumsily tries to right his wrongs, eventually doing enough to give his wife and daughter hope to carry-on despite the mistakes he has made that have condemned them as social outcasts. It’s a powerful show, with imperfect characters who make myriad mistakes along the way. The score is overloaded with Rodgers and Hammerstein standards including “The Carousel Waltz”, “If I Love You,” “Soliloquy”, “What’s the Use of Wonderin’” and “You’ll Never Walk Alone”. The original production starring John Raitt and Jan Clayton ran for 890 performances. Carousel was revived on Broadway in 1949 and 1994, and received several revivals by City Center and Lincoln Center. A film was made in 1956 starring Gordon MacRae and Shirley Jones.
Fun Fact: Carousel was named by Time Magazine as the Greatest Musical of the 20th Century.