The cast of Carousel delivered a memorable and innovative performance, pulling at heartstrings and offering tearjerker moments.
Director Eve Himmelheber fearlessly led the cast, crew and, most importantly, the audience into the 1930s with hopeful and blissful romance blooming in the air.
“We all hoped to be ferried away to an adventure with romance and exotic beauty, however each of us pays the price, gets on, grabs for the golden ring, and then our ride is over and another wave of people replace us, ad infinitum,” Himmelheber’s note for the audience read.
The opening scene is a prologue to the story of Billy Bigelow and Julie Jordan, played by Keaton Williams and Gina Velez.
With instrumental music creating an atmosphere that spoke to the turn of the century carousel in a carnival and action without dialogue, the personalities unfolded before our eyes.
Bigelow is the charismatic and flirtatious Barker employed by the temperamental Mrs. Mullin. Bigelow singles out the quiet and darling Julie Jordan in sweeping her off her feet with a ride on the whimsical carousel.
Bigelow gets himself in trouble with Mrs. Mullin for being too friendly to Jordan on the job, which results in losing his job.
If the brilliant costume design wasn’t enough to convince the audience members, the physical creation of the carousel was genius.
If you’re curious as to how the props and scenery crew managed to make the carousel functional and be easily used by the cast.
Carrie Pipperidge, played by Audrey Curd, is another lovable character introduced in the beginning. Being more proper and what would be considered ‘nerdy’ in the 1930s, she is the loyal best friend of Jordan.
The most interesting part of the storyline that hooked me is the high contrast of Bigelow’s personality and Jordan’s personality in the scene titled “If I Loved You”.
Bigelow is revealed to be the rebellious and rambunctious one, making it difficult to imagine him settling down with anyone.
Jordan is the starry eyed romantic that finds the virtue to trust him, regardless of learning the rumor that Bigelow gets girls to fall in love with him to steal their money.
It seems almost all too perfect for the pair that they are both penniless and stubborn, falling in love by the end of the number while it’s clear to the audience members that this relationship will inevitably have a tragic ending to it.
The scene design for “If I Loved You” along with nearly every other scene was immersive in clever ways, giving the performance a lasting impression.
The actors also did a remarkable job in delivering their songs, each having impressive vocal ranges to go with the playful lyrics of the songs. Each of the actors stood out in their own way.
Within the passing of a couple of months, Julie Jordan is now Julie Bigelow and Billy Bigelow is now Billy the Grump.
There is also a high contrast in the progression between Julie’s relationship to Billy and Pipperidge’s relationship with the renowned and wealthy Enoch Snow.
Shortly after Julie reveals to Pipperidge that Billy hit her one night, Pipperidge announces her engagement to Snow.
Pipperidge sings of the pure love she shares with Snow with the same hopeless romantic starry eyes that Julie once had for Billy.
When Snow finally appears, it’s hard not to love this guy. He’s successful, affectionate, and has his feet firmly planted on the ground while our anti-hero Billy Bigelow is temperamental, jobless and easily swayed by manipulative friends.
Wait! There’s more! Julie reveals her pregnancy to Billy, offering hope to rekindle the love in their marriage. However, Billy finds it as an opportunity to finally give back to Julie and to provide for his newfound family.
The dodgy and confident Jigger Craigin, played by William Hoshida, convinces Billy to help him out in a plan of theft that would earn them $3,000 to split.
While even the intrusive Mrs. Mullin foresees nothing but failure in this idea, Billy is determined to prove himself.
Two of the best events in the second act is the scene design for heaven, where Star Keeper introduces himself to Billy. Bright lights hang from the ceiling as stars while Star Keeper is standing on a ladder, putting up more stars that are ready for the sky.
Star Keeper offers Billy a chance of redemption for both his widowed wife and now 15-year-old daughter, Louise.
Billy has a whole day to go back to earth to straighten up his unfinished business with his heartbroken family.
With that, a screen is lifted, introducing Louise as she’s dancing by herself in her solo number, “Ballet.” Louise quickly becomes one of my personal favorites because of the fighter personality she inherited from her deceased father.
Louise is a tragic character; being teased and hated for being the daughter of a criminal and being taken advantage of by the flirtatious men who were similar to the young Billy.
Seeing the tragedy he has brought upon the people that he loves the most, Billy jumps at the opportunity to fix things.
One of the most memorable and relatable lines is by Julie: “It’s possible for someone to hit you hard and not hurt at all.”
Perhaps the relationship between Billy and Julie wasn’t all that bad, because it’s in the nature of love to kick your heart in the butt sometimes.
In the words of Julie Bigelow, “He’s a fella and you love him, that’s all there is to that.”
Now, if you want to know how it all unfolds, I recommend going to a show time if Carousel.
This play was charming, clever and unforgettable. The collaboration between the cast and crew made this story a believable one that draws you in to care about the characters.
The play runs through Dec. 16 at CSUF’s Little Theatre.