``Carousel'' -- Classic American musical by Rodgers & Hammerstein that combines passion and danger to tell a story of redemption and the power of love, collaboration with Western's University Theatre and School of Music, 8 p.m. Nov. 13-14, 19-21, 2 p.m. Nov. 15, Laura V. Shaw Theatre, Gilmore Theatre Complex, WMU. $20, $15 seniors and WMU faculty/staff, $5 students $5 (269) 387-6222.
BY MARIN HEINRITZ
Special to the Gazette
KALAMAZOO -- In the lush, sweeping Rodgers and Hammerstein musical ``Carousel,'' there is both lightness and weight: a beautiful and surprisingly dark underbelly provides an anchor to the kind of levity one generally expects in a big, sweeping musical.
And, at the hands of Director Jay Berkow and an extraordinary cast, crew and orchestra, the University Theatre's production of what has been deemed the best musical of the 20th century is exceptional.
From the first to last moments, the stage is sumptuously full; with never a lull, this 2 1/2-hour show moves beautifully, and the story and characters are revealed through action rather than relying primarily on songs to explain what's going on.
Set in a 19th-century Maine seaside town, ``Carousel'' tells the story of one flawed man's struggle to find and redeem himself and the ripple effects he has on those he loves.
Performances are solid throughout the show. The ensemble is particularly wonderful: dances choreographed by Kirsten Harvey are, at turn, balletic and acrobatic. Big numbers, like ``June is Bustin' Out All Over'' and ``A Real Nice Clambake,'' are delightful.
Individual performances vary. Ben Maters brings swagger and a strong voice as Billy; Chelsea Morgan's gorgeous voice and grounded presence create a lovely Julie, although she lacks depth of emotion in pieces such as ``What's the Use of Wondrin'?''
Secondary characters Carrie and Enoch, portrayed by Adelina Feldman-Schultz and Ahren Rehmel, are the true stars of this show, with deliciously nuanced performances. Billy Casey's sleazy yet genuinely hilarious Jigger, Ashley Travis's gorgeous Agnes De Mille lyrical dance sequence and Dru Daniels' ``You'll Never Walk Alone'' are among the show's highlights.
Musical direction by David E. Little and his orchestra are a treat. Denise Dietrich's set -- from the painted panels depicting cherry blossoms to frame the stage, to a fabulously malleable carousel and sky that opens up -- effectively creates a 19th-century New England feel, as do Kathryn Wagner's costumes in muted colors and Melanie A. Berg's excellent lights.
The mark of a good musical, it has been said, is when the audience leaves humming a song. In this production of ``Carousel,'' that song very well may be a silly and lighthearted ditty about a clambake, but that in no way diminishes or masks the superior artistry -- the real tragedy and redemption -- onstage. In addition to humming a tune, one also leaves this show feeling transformed.
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