Jack O’Brien Directs Rodgers + Hammerstein Musical
On February 28, 2018, Carousel began previews in a revival production at the Imperial Theatre. It is currently scheduled for its opening night on April 12, 2018, and to run for an open-ended engagement. The show has a book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, and a musical score by Richard Rodgers. This is the same duo whose canon has defined 20th century American musical theatre, with other works including The King and I, South Pacific, Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella, Flower Drum Song, and The Sound of Music. Carousel was only their second collaboration, after their first hit Oklahoma! Carousel premiered on Broadway in 1945, winning the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best Musical. This was actually two years before the Tony Awards were even in existence. After playing 890 performances on Broadway, the show went on to tour for two years, including five months in Chicago alone, covering 15,000 miles and encompassing 20 states and two Canadian cities. Then, the show went back to New York to play for four weeks at New York City Center, and then returned to the Majestic Theatre on Broadway, planning to fill the theatre until South Pacific took over (although it didn’t quite make it that far). Then, the show played London’s West End in 1950, remaining there for over 1.5 years. That was an incredible beginning for this celebrated musical, which has since been revived on Broadway in 1954, 1957, and most recently in 1994. With over two decades having passed since then, it is due time for a revival. However, time will tell whether there is demand for this show that may perhaps be considered dated.
Scott Rudin is the producer behind this revival, and he was also behind the revival hit of last year, Hello, Dolly! While Rudin is known for bringing together an all-star cast that makes audiences run to the theatre, this revival may not be such a shoe-in. While the actors are certainly very accomplished, they may not carry the weight of Bette Midler. Nevertheless, they are incredibly impressive. The role of Nettie Fowler is played by Renée Fleming, who was on Broadway in 2015 in Living on Love, but who is best known for her superb opera singing accomplishments. Amongst her innumerable honors, she has been awarded the National Medal of Arts, four Grammy Awards, the Fulbright Lifetime Achievement Medal, and she was made a Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur. The part of Billy Bigelow is played by Joshua Henry, whose credits include Shuffle Along, Or The Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed, Violet, Bring It On the Musical, The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess, The Scottsboro Boys, American Idiot, and In the Heights. Of these, he was nominated for Tony Awards for Violet and The Scottsboro Boys. In addition, the part of Julie Jordan is played by Jessie Mueller, whose leading credits include Waitress, Beautiful: the Carole King Musical, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Nice Work If You Can Get It, and On a Clear Day You Can See Forever. Of these, she was nominated for Tony Awards for On A Clear Day You Can See Forever and Waitress, and she won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for Beautiful. Other parts are played by Margaret Colin (The Columnist, Arcadia), Alexander Gemignani (Violet, The People in the Picture), Lindsay Mendez (Significant Other, Godspell), Brittany Pollack (Broadway debut), Amar Ramasar (Broadway debut), and an expansive ensemble. The show is directed by Jack O’Brien, whose many credits include John Lithgow: Stories by Heart, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Front Page, It’s Only a Play, Macbeth, The Nance, and many more.