You would think living in NYC, I would be going to shows all the time. Yeah, well, that is simply not the case. Tickets cost money, money I don’t always have. So, sometimes you have to pick and choose what you go see and hope that the tickets aren’t outrageously expensive or sold out. This season, when it came down to Broadway shows, the two that I absolutely wanted to see are Angels in America and Carousel. I wasn’t sure how I would afford them in my current position, particularly Angels in America. But as fate would have it, an old co-worker of mine had texted me saying she had a ticket to Carousel she wasn’t able to use. She didn’t want it to go to waste and said I could have it if I wanted it. OH MY GOD, YESSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I can’t even begin to tell you how unbelievably excited I was. First off, Carousel has always been very dear to my heart as I had my first big role in a production of Carousel. And I was very excited for the cast of Carousel, specifically Renee Fleming singing Nettie Fowler!
After I went to my friend’ office to pick up the ticket (who I told I will totally take to dinner for this!), I walked down the street, my heart palpitating. I had no idea when I woke up this morning that my day would end this way! This was a dream come true! The day dragged on; 8pm just couldn’t come quick enough. But eventually I was at the theater. It was packed, which isn’t surprising. Carousel is still in previews, meaning the tickets are cheaper, so the smart people are all getting in now. I knew I should have brought tissues with me for this show and sure enough, when the orchestra played the first chord, I began to choke up.
Before I review the show, let me tell you about my relationship with Carousel. My first years of college were spent at Mesa Community College where I was taking my first couple years of classes towards a music degree, singing in choir, and performing in musicals (hadn’t gotten into opera yet). After a couple years of playing small roles, speaking roles, and ensemble, I finally got my first big role; Enoch Snow. This was an accomplishment; I felt very honored to have been given the role and was excited. That is until I rented the video (that’s how long ago this was) of the old movie with Gordon McRae and Shirley Jones. I remember watching this and thinking “They’ve been singing about clams for 10 minutes and doing high kicks for another 10. What cheese is this I just got myself into??”. Well, when I said that to our director, she told me “You haven’t seen it on stage, have you. It’s beautiful on stage!”. Well clearly, I didn’t get to see it on stage since I was in it, but the overall experience of putting Carousel together, hearing all the music live, seeing the story unfold through my colleagues, it was indeed very magical. It was a beautiful experience. Even working with the girl playing Carrie Pipperidge who, admittedly we did not get along, actually worked very well together on stage and had great chemistry. Since then, I have been in love with Carousel. Without fail, the carousel theme brings me to tears each and every time. And every production I’ve seen has caused me to be a blithering mess. So, getting to see it on Broadway, with Renee Fleming who I have admired for years, was simply overwhelming.
The overall production was beautiful. Conceptually period set pieces, period costumes, exquisite lighting, and a wonderful orchestra. All in all, there was nothing about this production that was lacking as far as I am concerned. The cast was stupendous, each and every last one of them! Jessie Mueller; ah what a treat to finally see this Broadway Baby live. I had first seen her as Carrie Pipperidge in the Live at Lincoln Center broadcast of Carousel with Kelly O’Hara and Nathan Gunn and found her absolutely darling in the role. Since then, I have enjoyed watching her career explode (she won a Tony for Beautiful) and seeing her live in a production of the show I first saw her in was an excellent culmination. She was glorious and heartwarming as Julie Jordan with a beautiful sonorous soprano voice, very different from her belting in Waitress. Her Maine accent was spot on (and for the record, let’s just say everyone’s was pretty darn good). Joshua Henry as Billy Bigelow was indeed very gratifying. Henry commanded the role extremely well. You loved him when he was soft and were angry at him when he was wrong, essentially seeing what Julie saw. He has a very rich voice with a sharpness to it that serves the role of Billy brilliantly. Even when he was singing warm sensitive lines, this ping in his voice gave him an edge very characteristic of Billy. Lindsay Mendez as Carrie Pipperedge was utter perfection! The way I see Carrie, she can be portrayed in two ways: either full-on comedic or subtle comedy allowing some drama to come out more effectively. Mendez went full on comedic and she never lost the audience for a second. We caught every joke, every quirk, every voice change she made and we loved it! And speaking of the voice, knowing that she had played Elphaba, I am just dumbfounded at how brilliant her head voice was in this (my voice teacher would probably not be surprised, blog on that later, haha). Alexander Gemignani was delightful as Enoch Snow, he was not as ridged as typically played (like I did) and it made him all the more approachable. Very unique voice, at times not exactly what I would prefer, but never bad. The stand out performance for me was Margaret Colin as Mrs. Mullins. You would know her best as Connie, Bill Pullmans secretary in the movie Independence Day (yeah, her!!). She was indeed intriguing as the aged Mrs. Mullins; gritty and earthy, holding her own against these Broadway heavy weights. And Renee. La Fleming. La Divina. Seriously, is there anything this woman can’t do? It should be no surprise that she simply glided onto the Broadway stage as if she had been here for ages. Her voice balanced perfectly with the other singers all the while being ever present through the ensemble numbers. And in all honesty, I can’t even remember her rendition of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” because I was just a huge puddle of tears through the whole thing. I’d like to say I need to go back and listen to it again, except I will probably be just as much a puddle of tear then as I was now. Safe it to say, Renee’s performance filled my soul with exactly what I hoped it would.
I walked out of that theater and just kept saying “Oh my God, oh my God….”, simply beyond belief that I had just experienced this! This show is so dear to me and I really wanted to see it. So, the fact that I got to, just made me feel beyond happy. I feel like I gained something from it and my life is great.