September is proving to be a wonderful month in the Valley for some of Broadway’s greatest musicals. First there was Theater Works’ lovely production of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s Into The Woods. This past weekend, The Phoenix Symphony and Phoenix Theatre combined forces to present a glorious staged concert of Meredith Willson’s The Music Man. The best may have been saved for last. Friday night, September 17, Fountain Hills Community Theater opens its highly anticipated production of the Rodgers and Hammerstein masterpiece Carousel. In 1999 Time Magazine named Carousel “the best musical of the 20th century.”
Carousel was adapted from Hungarian playwright Ferenc Molnár’s 1909 play Liliom, from a translation by Benjamin G. Glaser. It was Rodgers and Hammerstein’s follow up to their groundbreaking Oklahoma! Theresa Helburn and Lawrence Langner of the Theatre Guild, who had produced Oklahoma!, proposed to Rodgers and Hammerstein that they turn Molnár’s Liliom into a musical. The authors were at first reluctant, feeling that audiences might be put off by the play’s original foreign setting, the dark story, and a criminal anti-hero main character who eventually commits suicide. They finally agreed to take on the project, moving the setting to the New England coast, hoping that this would make the story, at least, more accessible.
Carousel opened at the Majestic Theatre on April 19, 1945. It was directed by Rouben Mamoulian and choreographed by Agnes de Mille. The musical ran for 890 performances, closing on May 24, 1947. The original cast included John Raitt, Jan Clayton, Jean Darling, Eric Mattson, Christine Johnson, Mervyn Vye and Bambi Linn. All the major critics gave Carousel rave reviews, except for Wilella Waldorf of the New York Post. Her review was mixed at best, stating: “The ‘Oklahoma!‘ formula is becoming a bit monotonous, and so are Miss de Mille’s ballets.” Waldorf was renowned as a consistently negative critical presence in the theater community. She even panned Oklahoma! So sad as that musical masterpiece is credited with having been the impetus for the American musical theater’s leap into its first Golden Age.
Rodgers and Hammerstein broke new ground in musical theater storytelling with their extended music-and-dialog scenes, such as the “bench scene”, which features If I Loved You, and the haunting Soliloquy. These scenes, especially the former, treat singing like spoken dialog set to music, a form of operatic recitative used as a lead-in to the actual song. Did you know that the full version of If I loved You is actually more than eleven minutes in length?
The original Broadway production went on to win the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Musical and eight Donaldson Awards, including Best Musical, Book, Lyrics and Score.
The Fountain Hills Community Theater production of Carousel is being produced by Patty Torrilhon and Linda Ferington with direction and set design by Peter J. Hill. The show will be choreographed by Noel Irick with musical direction by Flora Mogerman and costume design by Mary Ann L. Hacker. The large cast features Skye Ayers, Marty Berger, Skylar Bickley, Rebecca Duckworth, Bob Feugate, Carolyn Folks, Amy Ford, Sophie Gaardsmoe, Sandy Gulledge, Kellen Hunt, Patty Justice, Leah Klein, Nika Korchok, Sonya Krueger, Scott McKown, Jason Lee McDonald, Mason Morton, Sean Owen, Roger Prenger, Erin Ryan, Patrick Russo, Tanya Schoenwolf, Doug Simmons, Caroline Turnage, Debbie Vinopal and Tom Vinopal.
There are many cast albums available for Carousel, the original 1945 production, the 1956 film soundtrack, the 1965 Music Theater of Lincoln Center production and both the Royal National Theatre’s 1992 and its subsequent Lincoln Center 1994 productions. All are noteworthy but the 1945 original cast recording is still the best. The recordings are available from Amazon.Com.
Carousel opens at Fountain Hills Community Theater September 17 and will run through October 3.
The upcoming Fountain Hills Community Theater’s great 2010-11 season:
The Haunting of Hill House October 20 to November 14
The Producers January 14 to January 30
A Man for All Seasons February 25 to March 13
Not Now Darling April 8 to April 23
The Man Who Would Be King May 13 to May 29
Photos and graphic artwork courtesy of Fountain Hills Community Theater, unless otherwise noted.
The video clip of If I love You belongs to Fox and Rodgers&Hammerstein. All rights reserved.
For additional information regarding the full 2010-11 season, subscriptions and individual ticket availability and/or performance schedule for Carousel, please contact the Fountain Hills Community Theater Box Office directly either by phone (480) 837-9661 ext. 3 or ON LINE.
Fountain Hills Community Theater 11445 North Saguaro Blvd. Fountain Hills 85269