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Arena Stage explores themes of love, redemption in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s ‘Carousel’

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Arena Stage gives a performance worthy of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s favorite musical as it explores themes of love, sin and redemption in a new production of “Carousel.”

The play is set around the turn of the 20th century in a coastal Maine town, where Julie Jordan (Betsy Morgan), a naïve millworker, falls in love with Billy Bigelow (Nicholas Rodriguez), an arrogant carnival barker. Their simple, whirlwind romance is appealing, yet also troubled — mostly because of Billy’s deep personal flaws. 

Billy causes most of his own problems: getting fired from his job, hitting his wife, choosing the wrong friend and ultimately, much worse. On paper, he doesn’t sound like the kind of guy an audience would root for. But Rodriguez does a masterful job balancing both Billy’s pride and his charm. “Soliloquy,” laying out Billy’s hopes and dreams for his future son (“my boy Bill”) or daughter is a highlight of the night. 

And while Billy’s dreams are pure, his choices are not. When a hotheaded scheme to provide for his family goes bad, he gets one last chance to make it up to his wife and daughter, Louise (Skye Mattox). The plot twist is all the more compelling because this impulsive bully may not deserve the opportunity he’s been given. And yet, the viewer inevitably hopes he makes the most of it.  

Along the way, there’s something for everyone to like: beautiful choreography, a stunning ballet sequence, period costumes and classic songs such as “You’ll Never Walk Alone” and “If I Loved You.” 

“Carousel” is suitable for teens and up, but discussions about violence, some passionate kisses and an onstage death will rule out this show for most younger viewers. The play runs through Dec. 24. 


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016