Saturday, June 1, 2013

Review: (Ottawa) Carousel

Spinning for Spinning's Sake 
by Jim Murchison 

The amount of dedication that it takes to do musical theatre is remarkable. The size of the productions at Orpheus and the general quality of the shows done by people outside of their regular day jobs is usually very impressive. Having said that I was concerned that Carousel might be a little dated. It is much more than that. It is a social dinosaur. 

Carousel is a musical based on the mediocre Ferenc Molnar play Liliom. It was very popular, probably for the strength of three well crafted songs, If I Loved You, June Is Busting Out All Over and You'll Never Walk Alone. The last song is so inspirational that Jerry Lewis used to close the MD telethons for Jerry's Kids with it. The rest of the song and dance numbers are little more than filler.

There are some very fine messages in Carousel: Don't worry about what other people think of you; Stick to your path and your principles; Don't let your parent's mistakes hold you back or use them as an excuse for your own failure. 

There is another message that is so out of place that it transforms what might be a trite but somewhat entertaining escape into a jawdroppingly stupid choice to perform at any level in this millennium. When someone that loves you beats you, it doesn't hurt. To be fair, the frame of reference here is after a ghost has struck his daughter she doesn't feel it and as I am not an expert on the paranormal perhaps that is the true effect of ghostly beatings. In the real world being beaten by someone you love sometimes wears off after a couple of generations. Sometimes.

When was the last time you saw a Minstrel show for example? Their popularity appears to have expired.

I am not a person that generally believes that a play has a shelf life or should be retired after a period of time. There has been a lot of discussion on this topic recently in The Charlebois Post and I tend to lean towards presenting plays in the context of their time, but I think in some instances there are occasions when society moves beyond the play and there is not any reason in seeing it again except as an archive piece to show our evolution. When was the last time you saw a Minstrel show for example? Their popularity appears to have expired.

Several of the players that you see do standout performances at Orpheus aren't in this production and I wonder if they didn't want to audition. Perhaps they had a Take Back The Night walk to go on. 
There are several good performances in Carousel. There is depth to Brennan Richardson's performance as Billy Bigelow. He is conflicted and you see a frustrated man that wants to do the right thing. Susanna Atkinson's Carrie Pipperidge is a perky little firecracker that provides a lot of the really good humour of the play. Kodi Canon as the idealistic Enoch Snow is solid as well. Dave Rowan as Jigger is terrifically, understatedly evil with his delivery to the point that the audience actually grunted their disapproval at his derisive jabs. Bianca Pietracupa as Julie the girl that just can't help loving her man, also performs with honesty that goes beyond the dimensional restriction of the role.

There are not though, any of those chill-down-your-spine solos, in fact a couple of times things get more than a little pitchy and the chorus doesn't have the same excitement as it did in Rent or Titanic. The 20 piece orchestra is one that many theatres would envy as well and I look forward to hearing these musicians in upcoming productions. In the end, though, the limitations of the play are greater than the merits and the overall production doesn't get the usual amount of standing patrons and bravos.  It's like picking up your favourite loaf of bread and finding it is staledated and a little mouldy.

runtime: approximately 2 hours 25 minutes with one intermission
Carousel runs until June 9


  1. There was a wonderful segment in act 2 with a ballet solo and a pas de deux that was well appreciated by the audience. Its quality is something that you do not typically see in a community theatre production (sometimes not even in a professional one).

    1. Yes. I totally agree. It was an exceptional solo performed by jasmine Lee with Dave Rowan in the pas de deux and it is worthy of mention.

      Jim Murchison


Comments are moderated. Please read our guidelines for posting comments.