Also see Tracy's review of Movin' Out
Based on the Ferenc Molnar story Liliom, Carousel focuses on the relationship between the young and innocent Julie and her barker husband Billy. Fired from his job at the carousel, Billy is frustrated and violent. Julie understands her husband’s unhappiness and stands by her man. However, things take a turn for the worse when the couple find themselves broke and expecting a baby.
The score by the legendary team of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II is wonderful, featuring lovely ballads such as “If I Loved You” and energetic songs like “June is Busting Out All Over.” And one cannot fail to mention the extremely moving “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” which can easily induce a tear. However, the book has suffered a bit with time. The issue of spousal abuse is unsettling. It is addressed in the musical, but what is conveyed is that because Julie understands Billy’s pain, she endures his slaps. The power of their love makes her immune to the physical pain. That is not to say that there aren’t other characters that condemn it. Even Billy eventually faces up to his wrongdoings and has to find a way to atone. Nonetheless, the issue of domestic violence seems too easily accepted.
The production itself is very ambitious. The set design by Milagros Ponce de León starts out with a beautiful variation on a real carousel and Pei Lee’s costumes work well. Additionally, the orchestra headed by Christopher Youstra is flawless. Regardless, the direction is weak in spots and as a whole the show is poorly paced. Some of the dancing is inadequate as well and on the night this reviewer attended there were some slight microphone problems.
The quality of the cast lends to the unevenness of the show. Erin Davie as Julie Jordan delivers a strong performance and has a lovely voice. She has some especially fine moments in the second act. As Billy, Caesar Samayoa is inconsistent. He has some strong moments but at times his voice seems a bit off. His performance of “Soliloquy” is good in spots but a bit overdone. They are joined by an ensemble that possesses varying degrees of skill.
There are three performers who give outstanding performances. Tracy Lynn Olivera (Carrie Pipperidge) and Nehal Joshi (Enoch Snow) make a charming couple. Both exhibit excellent comic timing and give superb vocal performances. Monica Lijewski (Nettie) also leaves a big impression. Her folksy portrayal feels very real and her performance of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” is simply stunning.
Rodgers and Hammerstein created theater history. Their work deserves to be shown in the best possible light. Sadly, that is not the case here. OTC’s production of Carousel is mediocre at best. Carousel runs through December 26th.
The Olney Theatre
Cast List: Adrienne Athanas, Christopher Bloch, Erin Davie, Nehal Joshi, Monica Lijewski, Tracy Lynn Olivera, Caesar Samayoa, Jenn Segawa, Jeffries Thaiss, Liza Amling, Lawrence Brimmer, Debra Buonaccorsi, Miles Butler, Laura Cohen, Jermaine Crawford, Andi Everly, Tim Lewis, Madeline McCabe, Khalid Moultrie, Amy Pierson, Ryan Michael Reynolds, Gabriel Veneziano