Review: Carousel, starring Jessie Mueller and Joshua Henry
Rodgers and Hammerstein's classic musical has been revived for the fourth time, making it the fifth time this show has been on Broadway. Now starring Jessie Mueller and Joshua Henry as Julie Jordan and Billy Bigelow respectively, the show brings it's audience back into the world of one of the most classic musicals.
The show is very much of an era, and it happens to be pretty stuck in that era. One of the large focuses of the show is marriage and the problems that can come with it. Carrie (played by Lindsay Mendez) sings "When I Marry Mr. Snow", for example. In the current time of #TimesUp and #MeToo, it is interesting that the show hasn't given a nod to these and tried to show that not everything that happens is good. One example of this would be Billy hitting both Julie and Louise at different moments. Unlike in the upcoming revival of My Fair Lady, where it was made clear by the director in an interview with Playbill that he has "used his revival to flip the typical perspective...[intent on telling Eliza's] story", Carousel seems to look past this and stay faithful to the original which is good in one sense, but not great in the current situation.
Despite my slight reservations due to certain aspects, the acting, dancing, and singing in the show are all incredible. It is choreographed by a ballet choreographer and this has made both the dancing under the carousel and Louise's ballet beautiful. Jessie Mueller and Lindsay Mendez particularly shine with score as does Renee Fleming as Nettie. Their voices are gorgeous and that is consistent with the rest of the cast.
Though the show does drag a little bit, probably due to a lot of Billy and Julie jut staring at each other, the set design and the incredibly versatile set makes you believe that the world the characters are in is larger than the stage. From moving trees, to the carousel, to the broken carousel later on, to the beach, docks, Nettie's spa, heaven, and the woods, the set design is genius and deserves quite a bit of praise. In particular, the scene in heaven (or technically at heaven's back door) is wonderfully done.
Joshua Henry has an incredibly voice and is well suited for the role of Billy Bigelow. His song "Soliloquy" at the end of Act I is beautifully arranged and sung. I sincerely hope a cast album is released with this cast. Despite Julie being a main character she doesn't seem to do very much. This returns to the idea of the show being stuck in it's era. While Mueller is a fantastic actress, it seems that she's been given direction to stand and stare at certain parts. However, during the second act the full power of her acting is revealed and is incredibly impressive.
If you are a fan of Rodgers and Hammerstein or Carousel you will certainly enjoy this production. However, while it does many things well, there are other things that set it apart from other recent revivals in both good and not as good ways.