Sierra Repertory presents a musical treasure with Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Carouse,” June 29 to Aug.19, at SRT’s historic Fallon House Theatre in Columbia.
Glorious songs, a moving story of love and redemption and a robust, seaside setting have kept “Carousel” among the most beloved American musicals ever created.
Sierra Rep Artistic Director Scott Viets directs the show with stellar performers who promise to deliver a thrilling production.
In the vein of sweeping dramatic musicals like “Sound of Music” and “West Side Story,” the characters are imperfect, the love story seems ill-fated and the music is unforgettable.
The story takes place in a small, hard-working town on the New England seaside, where shy, young Julie Jordan falls for a brash, charismatic carnival barker, Billy Bigelow. While they truly love each other, their relationship is difficult from the start — and gets even more so when they learn they are expecting a child.
From the opening moment, the show is filled with memorable melodies and lyrics that have become standards for generations — from beautiful ballads such as “If I Loved You,” and “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” to spirited numbers like “June is Bustin’ Out All Over” and the beloved “Carousel Waltz.”
While the songs have endured for their richness and quality, Viets said it’s the complexity of the characters that take the show to another level and that are most rewarding for audiences and actors alike to discover.
Rodgers and Hammerstein created “Carousel” at a pivotal point in their collaboration. Fresh from the triumph of their first show, “Oklahoma!,” the team faced the steep challenge of a second success. They delivered with a complicated romance adapted from Ferenc Molnar’s highly regarded drama “Liliom.”
Even 60 years later, theater goers recognize the genius of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s novel approach to the American musical — weighty themes, full characters and seamless scores that carry the story along.
Viets is thrilled with his cast for the show.
“Doing a landmark musical like ‘Carousel,’ especially one that hasn’t been seen in the region in well over 25 years, comes with some pretty high expectations,” he said. “Considered by many to be Rodgers and Hammerstein’s most glorious vocal score, we knew we had to cast extremely legitimate Broadway-caliber singers — and we couldn’t be more thrilled.”
The ill-fated lovers, Julie Jordan and Billy Bigelow, will be played by SRT company member Samantha Bruce (“Gypsy,” “The Ladies Man,” “Boeing-Boeing”) and Los Angeles artist Marc Ginsberg.
“We saw literally dozens and dozens of actors for the role of Billy Bigelow,” Viets said. “This is a character revered as one of the most demanding and vocally challenging roles in musical theater. He’s a tricky role to cast as the vocal demands are near-operatic and the acting requirements are complex. Marc Ginsburg nailed it over and above his competition on all accounts. We’re thrilled to have him paired with our SRT company member Samantha Bruce, who is equally gifted.
“The same can be said for another newcomer to our stage, Jessica Reiner-Harris in the role of Julie’s best friend, Carrie Pipperidge,” Viets said, “We needed someone who could be comic, yet smart in a naive way without making the character silly, or dumbed down. Jessica embodies all the qualities I see in the role: sweet, naive, fun and sensitive, but no dummy. And when she sings “Mister Snow,” it’s exactly how the role should be sung.”
Joining Reiner-Harris, Bruce and Ginsburg in the lead roles are New York newcomer Yaniv Zarif as ambitious young Enoch Snow and Heather Orth (SRT’s Mama Rose in “Gypsy”) who returns to SRT as Julie’s Cousin Nettie.
“I’m excited for our audiences to hear this glorious music sung by amazing singers who are also fantastic actors,” Viets said.
Joining the leads are Kaitlyn Brennan as Julie and Billy’s daughter Louise, Kimberly Gelbwasser as Mrs. Mullins, Daniel S. Hines as Jigger, and Ron Randall as the Starkeeper.
The ensemble includes Alison Boresi, Macleish Day, Kayla Hart, Cory Kotas, Peter F.A. Leibold VI, Michael McIlwee, Kaylie Olson, Sarah Schori and Nick Waaland.
Scenic Designer Noble Dinse is creating the panoramic seaside setting and carousel centerpiece. SRT’s Mark Seiver is musical director, Lia Metz is choreographer and guest designer Brenda Winstead is creating the costumes.
Also on the design team are SRT’s excellent professional staff members: lighting designer Christopher Van Tuyl, property mistress Mercy DeHerrera, Sean Paxton — musical orchestration, assistant stage manager Becky Saunders and stage manager Doug Brennan.
SRT’s production of “Carousel” is presented with the help of Platinum Partner Blue Mountain Minerals and season sponsor Clarke Broadcasting.
“Carousel” opens June 29 and plays through Aug. 19 at the Fallon House Theatre in Columbia State Historic Park. Thursday and Friday evening performances begin at 7 p.m., Saturday evening shows begin at 8 p.m. and Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday matinees begin at 2 p.m.
Tickets are from $26-$32 depending on the day of the performance, with discounts for children, students and seniors. Two special “talk back” discussions with the cast will be held after the performances on Thursday, July 12 and Wednesday, July 18.
For information or reservations call SRT’s box office at 209-532-3120 or visit Sierra Rep’s Website at sierrarep.org. This show has mature themes appropriate for audiences of age 12 and up.