Carousel Review Roundup

Nathan Gunn
and Kelli O'Hara

The N.Y. Philharmonic’s concert staging of the 1945 musical Carousel, based on Ferenc Molnar’s 1909 play Liliom, received near universal acclaim. The concert was taped for “Live from Lincoln Center” and will air starting April 26 on PBS. The creative team includes Oscar Hammerstein II (book, lyrics), Chad Beguelin (adaptation), Richard Rodgers (music), John Rando (director), Rob Fisher (music direction), Trude Rittmann (dance arrangements), Don Walker (orchestrations), Warren Carlyle (choreography), Allen Moyer (sets), Ken Billington (lights), David Woolard (costumes), Tom Watson (hair), and Peter Fitzgerald (sound). The cast includes Kelli O’Hara (Julie Jordan), Nathan Gunn (Billy Bigelow), Stephanie Blythe (Nettie Fowler), Shuler Hensley (Jigger Craigin), Jason Danieley (Enoch Snow), Jessie Mueller (Carrie Pipperidge), Kate Burton (Mrs. Mullin), John Cullum (Starkeeper, Dr. Seldon), Robert Fairchild (Carnival Boy), and Tiler Peck (Louise).

Joe Dziemianowicz (Daily News): Merry-go-round horses hover in the air at odd angles, as though the painted ponies have hit turbulence. The images, seen on stage at Avery Fisher Hall, perfectly capture the soaring songs and dramatic tensions in Carousel. … And it’s breathtaking. Directed by John Rando in a production that feels fully realized even though it is a concert, the show boasts topflight talents from theater, opera and dance. … It starts out as small-town realism and ends up, literally, in the stars. Fitting for this out-of-this-world production.

Elysa Gardner (USA Today): Helmed by John Rando, under the expert musical direction of conductor Rob Fisher, it features a dizzying array of talent. … It would be hard to think of a singer/actress better suited to the role of Julie than O’Hara, whose luminous voice and wholesome but knowing presence have made her one of Broadway’s most reliable and likable leading ladies. … The handsome, charismatic Gunn is an equally ideal Billy, bringing the right masculine energy and angst to the part while also revealing its underlying tenderness.

Erik Haagensen (Back Stage): The evening is rife with soaring voices and lush orchestral sounds, but the drama remains absent. When I don’t shed a single tear at Carousel, something is amiss. … The heroine of the evening is Jessie Mueller, as Carrie. Despite needing to co-exist with a production that has scrubbed out every bit of sexuality and emotional darkness it can, Mueller manages to be fresh, spontaneous, and genuine. … The production drowns the show in syrup and blows nearly 70 years of dust right back on it.

Charles Isherwood (N.Y. Times): From top to bottom this is as gorgeously sung a production of this sublime 1945 Broadway musical as you are ever likely to hear. … Ms. O’Hara and Mr. Gunn’s performance just might be the one I’d choose to memorialize too: both are in ravishing voice. … The measure of any Billy Bigelow must be taken in the celebrated “Soliloquy,” and while Mr. Gunn sings it with impressive musical authority, I found his interpretation lacking in emotional dynamics. … Ms. Peck all but stops the show with her radiant performance in the second-act ballet, choreographed skillfully if somewhat generically by Warren Carlyle.

Brian Scott Lipton (Theater Mania): The Philharmonic’s concert production of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein’s classic 1945 musical Carousel … is a spectacular treat for the ears. … John Rando’s simple production will leave even the most jaded audience member with both a tear in their eye and a smile on their face by the end of the show. … In some ways, however, the evening’s standout performance belongs to the one person on stage who doesn’t sing much: New York City Ballet rising star Tiler Peck. … This musically sublime experience is not to be missed.

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