Arts & Culture

Musical Forum’s ‘Carousel’ will take you on a ride

Sexual tension, marital strife complicate small-town life, afterlife in Musical Forum's production

Staff Writer
Monday, April 25, 2016

The final performance of ‘Carousel’ will be tonight in the Downspace. The show features a number of difficult themes, such as suicide and sexism.

The shrieks of a whistle and the clamor of seaside activity signal the beginning of the Musical Forum’s “Carousel,” the celebrated 1945 musical created by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein.

Nick Healy ’17, the director and set designer, said that he chose “Carousel” because “it’s incredibly moving, and some moments are incredibly disturbing.” The choice of an established, wartime classic — as opposed to a more modern musical — is especially unusual for the Musical Forum, he added, and he was excited to present it here.

The intimacy of the small theater lends itself well to the scenes when performers flood the stage, creating an instantly compelling sense of activity. From the beginning, I noticed the manic energy of Marcus Sudac ’17, who plays the unscrupulous whaler, Jigger, as he flitted between the other actors.

Frankie Troncoso ’16 plays the leading role of Billy Bigelow, the swaggering carousel barker who sweeps the young Julie Jordan — played by Hannah Margolin ’16 — off her feet.

Troncoso didn’t quite fit the description of a brawny, tanned ladies man, but he does have a fine set of pipes. Understandably, Troncoso seems most comfortable when he is not spouting Bigelow’s braggadocious drivel but instead belting out a stirring melody.

But Troncoso had one of the production’s most challenging roles, as Anna Stacy ’17, the music director, pointed out. “There’s a lot of misogyny written into the show, (and) it’s really hard to be in that space for a long time,” she said. Apart from one anticlimactic falsetto, which was only noticeable in contrast to the rest of his performance, Troncoso’s voice was steady and beautiful throughout.

As Bigelow’s naive and submissive new wife, Margolin is not only a very capable actress but an impressive singer. The soaring high notes of “If I Loved You” could not have been sung more powerfully.

Emily Garrison ’16, who plays Julie’s slightly more sensible friend, Carrie Pipperidge, was undoubtedly the most energetic presence on stage. Carrie is a contradictory character to portray because she is the more playful of the two women, and yet she sets her sights on the hopelessly boring Enoch Snow.

Sam Kortchmar ’16 excelled at Snow’s awkward humor with a nervous, geeky laugh, though he struggled to hit some of the high notes.

While Snow woos Carrie with his vision of creating a lucrative fleet of sardine boats — not to mention a similarly ambitious fleet of progeny — Carrie is busy shimmying her chest to “June Is Bustin’ Out All Over,” or whipping out a leg, exclaiming “Well, Mr. Snow, here I am!”

In short, Garrison does a splendid job.

The weighty themes of the play — including death, suicide, sexism and emasculation — are presented vividly, and the enticing and profound ballet near the end is incredible.

While a college production of a musical as complex as “Carousel” faces long odds of success, the Musical Forum pulls it off and showcases fantastic talent.

The final performance of “Carousel” will be tonight at 8 p.m.

Correction: A previous version of this article stated that “Carousel” is a Production Workshop production. In fact, it is a Musical Forum production. The Herald regrets the error.