Musically, "Carousel" is by far the most intelligently written and sophisticated of the entire Rodgers and Hammerstein canon. The story and some of the lyrics may betray just a hint of datedness, but not enough to undermine the brilliance of the work, even approaching seventy years after it was written.
When sung by a cast like the one seen last week on the stage of Avery Fisher Hall, the word masterpiece seemed completely appropriate and possibly even genius. I can't remember ever hearing the show sung by a more uniformly superb group of singers and the music sounding more sumptuous.
Billy and Julie's sad story is now well worn but Metropolitan Opera super-hunk Nathan Gunn brought a smoldering intensity to the role and a burnished, powerful voice, the likes of which contemporary musical theater simply does not provide enough of these days. Kelli O'Hara (an unexpected brunette for the occasion) simply can do no wrong these days; currently appearing on Broadway in "Nice Work If You Can Get It," and of course her Tony-winning take on Nelli Forbush in the recent revival of South Pacific. She brought a heartbreaking tenderness to the evening, and a voice like spun silver. The pairing of the opera singer with the musical theater singer seemed to mirror the odd coupling of Billy and Julie themselves, as two vastly different people from two vastly different worlds collide and fall in love.
John Rando directed the semi-staged production, and the New York Philharmonic, conducted by Rob Fisher brought a ravishing depth and warmth to the lushly romantic score. The stage was adorned by a large lighted sign bearing the title of the show, along with a small corral of Carousel horses suspended haphazardly from the ceiling above the stage.
The suggestion of a 1915 New England fishing village wasn't exactly achieved, but frankly with singers and musicians of this caliber, who cares! It was also a testament to the strong acting skills of the principles that only moments after the famous "Carousel Waltz/Overture," we were completely captivated and transported away by the two pairs of lovers.
Mr. Snow and Carrie were portrayed lovingly by Jason Danieley and Jessie Mueller. Shuler Hensley played Jigger as more ne'er-do-well than villain and the touch was a fresh twist. Vocally. few people on the operatic stage today (or on earth for that matter) have the power and passion of Stephanie Blythe, one of the world's great mezzo sopranos, but it was her subtly controlled singing and her magnetic, joyful exuberance that had her just about stealing the show. Ms. Blythe's "June Is Bustin' Out All Over," could not only be heard in the lobby, but probably across the street in the restaurants as well. How one can be that powerful and still have the vocal dynamics and sensitivity not to overpower the rest of the cast is a very rare talent indeed.
Page 2 >>
VIDEO: U.S. Open Champ Justin Rose Presents Top 10 List on Letterman Tonight
VIDEO: First Look - Trailer for SPRINGSTEEN & I, In Theaters This July
Saks Fifth Avenue Unveils New Creative Campaign 'LOOK'
VIDEO: First Listen - Gavin DeGraw's New Single 'Best I Ever Had'
Dell Special Committee Responds to Icahn's Latest Proposal
Video: First Look at Antonio Pappano, Kevin O'Hare and More in Royal Opera House's Season Preview Event
BWW Reviews: ABT's LE CORSAIRE - New Staging of a Classical Work
STAGE TUBE: Russell Brand Takes Over at MORNING JOE