Monday, December 12, 2016


I went to see "Carousel" at Arena Stage Friday. It included a number of actors I've seen in other local productions, so it was a gimme for me, even if I knew that musicals of a certain age tend to include problematic things.  Which is to say, while I had listened to the music some in preparation, I had decided to go in blind on plot and well, yeah.  
Let's summarize first.  "Carousel" is the story of Carousel barker Billy who loses his job for flirting too much and ends up married to one of the flirtees (who also loses her job for engaging in behavior unbecoming of a factory girl).  His sadness over being unemployed leads to drinking and spousal abuse, but when he discovers his wife is pregnant, he engages in a ridiculous scheme to get more money and ends up dead and in purgatory.  He is offered the chance to attempt to up his heavenly entry points by going back to help his daughter who is now a teen with a bit of a temper problem.  it also includes a number of well known songs such as "June is Busting Out All Over" and "You'll Never Walk Alone". 
So, having consulted post-show with a friend who was quite familiar with it, and also taken a peak at the summary here, it is clear to me that this version attempted to address some of the elements that in the original made spousal abuse seem adorable.  Yes, Julie still stays with Billy, but everyone else tells her that she shouldn't.  Domestic violence is a complex issue, and it's not impossible to address in a musical, but in this case it was clearly meant as a layer of Billy's character, not anything the show was going to spend real time exploring for Julie. Billy has to make amends but not to Julie, just to someone.  So it's essentially treated as a character flaw where the victims are unimportant other than it is preventing him from progressing on to heaven. 
The performances were great, and the orchestra was suspended over the stage in what looked like the top of the carousel.  Since it takes place in Maine there were what to my ears sounded like a good Down East accent.