Sunday, December 11, 2016

Another Amazing Theater Experience In DC

A beautiful and cold afternoon at the Theater! Back to Arena Stage for a production of Rodger's and Hammerstein's "Carousel" made extra special by the arrival from West Virginia of one of my favorite Theater Buddies, Perri.

When I think of Rogers and Hammerstein I, of course, think of Oklahoma, South Pacific, The King and I, and The Sound of Music, but Carousel, not so much. I know it's one of their many shows, but I've never seen it, and had no idea what to expect. Which can be a very good thing. In this instance I will start by observing that it's a very interesting show. I found the beginning a little underwhelming, and the ending very dynamic, and unexpected also intriguing conceptually. This doesn't happen with a show one knows, but this is my critique of Rogers and Hammerstein, and not the ensemble who performed the show at Arena. They were well pitched in the larger sense from start to finish. And certainly, Nicholas Rodriguez as Billy Bigalow was the lynch pin that held the production together, a task made light by the superb quality of the rest of the actors around him. Betsy Morgan gave a strong performance as Julie Jordan and best friend Carrie Pepperidge, portrayed by Kate Rockwell was every bit the stage equal. One particularly compelling moment was Ann Arvia's first rendition of "You'll Never Walk Alone" as Nettie Fowler. Of course, she's singing it to the grieving widow, Julie over the still warm dead body of Billy...not to put too fine a point on it!
The amazing Mead Center for American Theater home to Arena Stage.
The ensemble was also well tuned in their every move. Highlights included their tightly executed choreography and infectious Bon Vivance during choral numbers like "June is Busting Out All Over" and "A Real Nice Clambake". I wish I had a picture of the set. Arena Stage does theater in the round like no one else I've ever experienced, and this production surpassed my most recent highlights of the sets of "Oliver," and "Fiddler On The Roof"--which were both excellent. The entire stage was a Carousel with the orchestra divided between the towering copala and the understory of the stage base...and the sound was terrific.

Two final shout outs go 1) to the costumes: All well done and most especially those used during the overture when the stage became a living tableau of the carnival with many amazing side show acts and visitors all interacting in a complex mime, and 2) The Ballet sequence in the second act. It reminded me again of the depth of talent DC has. Beautifully performed with once again some amazing costumes--the men who performed as the circus horses in particular where stunning.
Julie Jordan (Betsy Morgan) and Carrie Pipperidge (Kate Rockwell) sharing secrets.

Billy Bigelow (Nicholas Rodriguez) and Julie meeting and courting for the first time.

Betsy Morgan as Julie Jordan.

Enoch Snow (Kurt Boehm) and Carrie Pipperidge courting.

Julie tells Billy she having his baby!

Mrs. Mullin (E. Faye Butler) attempting to hire Billy back to the Carnival.

Amazing choreography wonderfully executed.

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