“CAROUSEL” SWIRLS MAGICALLY INTO THE GOODSPEED
By Bonnie Goldberg
Whether you love the prancing ponies, the stately giraffes, the manly lions or the cavorting zebras, there is much to love about the musical amusement enjoyed by children and adults alike. No matter if you call them flying horses, roundabout, calliope or merry-go-round, the carousel provides minutes of magical fun with every spin.
To explore these gallopers and horse ballets, plan a trip to the New England Carousel Museum located at 95 Riverside Avenue in Bristol to see rooms of antique wooden horses as well as ponies being lovingly restored to their former glory. Stop at the Bushnell Park Carousel in Hartford to ride the hand-carved horses that date back to 1914. This ride for $1 is one of the 200 that remain today from the 6000 that were built between 1890 and 1930 in this country.
These diversions are simply to put you in the proper state to fully enjoy the majesty of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s glorious musical “Carousel” offering magical rides at Goodspeed Musicals in East Haddam, now extended to Saturday, September 29.
Pick out your favorite painted pony and climb aboard the merry-go-round with sweetly naive Julie Jordan, beautifully and sensitively portrayed by Erin Davie. The brash, boastful and belligerent carnival barker Billy Bigelow, captured with strength and boldness by James Snyder, finds himself giving the brass ring to Julie as well as his heart.
Billy soon discovers he is being pulled in a trio of conflicting directions: forward to Julie and marriage, back to his boss Mrs. Mullin (Deanne Lorette) who owns the carousel and is jealous of Julie and sideways to an old whaling buddy Jigger (Tally Sessions) who has crime and fast cash on his mind.
While Julie and Billy struggle to stay sure footed on the rocky New England shore, Julie’s best friend Carrie, an adorable and pert Jenn Gambatese, enjoys a star-blessed courtship with the steady and industrious fisherman Mr. Snow, a proper and gentlemanly Jeff Kready. The helpful influences of the mill owner Mr. Bascombe (Jonathan Rayson) and Julie’s Aunt Nettie (Anne Kanengeiser) are not strong enough to prevent the inevitable tragedy.
Swirling around the story, set in the late 1800’s, are stirring songs like “If I Loved You,” “June is Bustin’ Out All Over,” “A Fine Clambake” and “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” Billy is given a chance for redemption when he is sent down from heaven by the Starkeeper (Ronn Carroll) to meet his daughter Louise (Eloise Kropp), now 15, who has never known him or felt his love.
Rob Ruggiero wraps this wonderful musical with wonder in his direction. It has been hailed by Time Magazine as the “Best Musical of the Twentieth Century,” called their favorite collaboration by the composers and termed his most beloved musical by Richard Rodgers.
For tickets, call Goodspeed Musicals, on the Connecticut River in East Haddam at 860-873-8668 or online at www.goodspeed.org. Performances are Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Thursday at 7:30 p.m. (and select days at 2 p.m.), Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. (and select days at 6:30 p.m.).
From the first moment the carousel magically spins, follow Julie and Billy across earth and heaven to find and express their love.