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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

 
CAROUSEL
at Goodspeed Opera House

KISS WITH A FIST
By SANDY MACDONALD

  Ph: Diane Sobolewski

You know Carousel – that sweet little Rogers and Hammerstein musical about a mill girl who falls in love with a humble herring fisherman named Mr. Snow and ends up rich and a mother many times over. … Wait – that’s not the story arc you recall? It may be, once you see how charmingly Jenn Gambatese, as Carrie Pipperidge, runs away with director Rob Ruggiero’s faithful and generally enjoyable revival at the Goodspeed Opera House.

Gently resolute, Teal Wicks (since replaced by Erin Davie) more than held her own as Julie Jordan, and found a strong match in James Snyder as Billy Bigelow, here more charmer than bruiser. Snyder tends to hold back a bit at first, the better to let loose in Billy’s “Soliloquy,” a paean to his imminent child of as yet indeterminate gender.

The song makes an indelible curtain closer for act one, compensating for a less-than-riveting crowd scene at cousin Nettie’s “spa.” Parker Esse’s take on Agnes de Mille’s original choreography is vigorous throughout, but Anne Kanengeiser comes across too kempt as the proprietress of a seaside eatery, and her obviously well-trained soprano doesn’t suit the rambunctious “June Is Bustin’ Out All Over.”

However, it’s here that we get to meet Carrie’s intended, Mr. Snow. Defying stereotype (stuffy burgher-to-be), Jeff Kready is youthfully appealing, emitting only the occasional high-pitched giggle to indicate that he may be a bit outside the norm amid this rough-and-tumble crowd. Carrie’s fondness makes more sense: She’s clearly following her heart, and not just making what today we would call “good choices.”

Still, her abiding empathy for Julie is belied in Billy’s overly rushed death scene. Would Carrie really leap in so quickly to advise Julie that she’s “better off?" And would Julie so reverently make way for Billy’s former paramour/boss, Mrs. Mullin (sharp-tongued Deanne Lorette)?

Ruggiero, wisely, makes no attempt to reconcile Julie’s “bad boy” predilection with modern mores. A blow that “feels like a kiss” grows ever more unacceptable as the decades accrue. Happily, the production is blessed by a brilliantly gifted dancer, Eloise Kropp, portraying young Louise Bigelow, the result of her parents’ doomed love. Kropp more than carries off de Mille’s fanciful beach ballet – she’s so breathtaking, Louise’s very existence seems well worth that blow that probably augured a great many more to come.

 


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