Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel

Carousel was hailed by Time Magazine as “the best musical of the 20th Century.“ The New York Philharmonic presented a stunning staged production of this iconic American work in 2013. Performed at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall in New York City, the production featured a star-studded cast and received outstanding reviews.

Luckily the original performance was professionally filmed and is available to view now through September 8 at 8 p.m. The running time is two hours and 30 minutes.

Above: The New York Philharmonic’s staged production of Carousel is streaming live through September 8, 2020.

The production credits include music by Richard Rodgers; book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, based on the play “Liliom” by Ferenc Molnar; directed by John Rando; conductor/musical director, Rob Fisher; choreography by Warren Carlyle; dance music arranged by Trude Rittmann; orchestrations by Don Walker; sets by Allen Moyer; lighting by Ken Billington; sound by Peter Fitzgerald; costumes by David C. Woolard; hair and wig design by Tom Watson; production stage manager; and Alan Gilbert is the music director.

The Carousel performers are Kelli O’Hara (Julie Jordan), Nathan Gunn (Billy Bigelow), Stephanie Blythe (Nettie Fowler), Shuler Hensley (Jigger Craigin), Jason Danielle (Enoch Snow), Jessie Mueller (Carrie Pipperidge), Kate Burton (Mrs. Mullin), John Cullum (Starkeeper/Dr. Seldon), and New York City Ballet dancers Robert Fairchild (Carnival Boy) and Tiler Peck (Louise).

Here’s an edited version of the review that was published in The New York Times on February, 2013. Authored by Charles Isherwood, the article praises the production;

There’s a sly fitness to the pairing of Kelli O’Hara and Nathan Gunn in the concert version of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel being presented by the  New York Philharmonic. You might say these gifted singers come from different worlds, just as do their characters, Julie Jordan and Billy Bigelow. Ms. O’Hara, perhaps best known for her splendid Nellie Forbush in the Tony-winning revival of South Pacific, is a Broadway baby. Mr. Gunn is a well-established lyric baritone in the opera world who has made another singing Billy — Billy Budd — a signature role.

Above: Kelli O’Hara and Nathan Gunn in the semi-staged New York Philharmonic production of Carousel. 

Happily, and perhaps obviously, things work out better for Ms. O’Hara and Mr. Gunn than they do for the loving but trouble-plagued characters they portray. Things come out pretty swell for the audience too: from top to bottom this is as gorgeously sung a production of this sublime 1945 Broadway musical as you are ever likely to hear. The cast also includes the powerhouse operatic mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe as Julie’s cousin Nettie Fowler, alongside a select group of musical-theater veterans and up-and-comers.

Many Broadway musicals are now performed as symphony orchestra concerts, and there’s no better candidate for this kind of crossover than Carousel, one of the most musically rich shows in the history of Broadway. Written just after Rodgers and Hammerstein had broken new dramatic ground in the genre with Oklahoma!, Carousel represents an even more audacious step toward the seamless integration of drama and music, and, for that matter, the depiction on the Broadway stage of human experience dappled in shadow, not just splashed with sunlight.

Ms. Blythe blows the audience away with her astoundingly lush voice, leading the exuberant “June Is Bustin’ Out All Over.” The role of Nettie has traditionally been cast with an opera star (sometimes a perilous undertaking), but Ms. Blythe is in every way an ideal fit. An assured actress, she is the rare classically trained singer who can also perform standards from the American songbook as if to the manner born.

Above: Left to right; Stephanie Blythe, Kelli O’Hara and Nathan Gunn.

Ms. Mueller is equally at home as Carrie, a role in which her superb musicality and pure soprano are paired with a likable presence and smooth comic timing. Mr. Danieley makes for an unusually handsome Enoch — in the dreamboat department he’s more or less the equal of Billy here — but he works in enough quirks to give the character the proper prickly oddity.

Mr. Hensley is effectively surly as Jigger, and the cast is rounded out by a vivid Kate Burton as Mrs. Mullin, and the excellent John Cullum, in the dual roles of the Starkeeper and Dr. Seldon, who presides over the high school graduation of Julie and Billy’s daughter, Louise, played by the thoroughly enchanting Tiler Peck, a principal dancer with New York City Ballet. 

Paired opposite Robert Fairchild, another terrific principal dancer from the same company, Ms. Tiler Peck all but stops the show with her radiant performance in the second-act ballet, choreographed skillfully if somewhat generically by Warren Carlyle. Granted a chance to descend to earth for a single day, Billy watches in astonishment as his teenage daughter sweeps recklessly through her dance, her juvenile high spirits a mirror of his own heedlessness. Ms. Peck dances with such emotional fervor that we can only share his speechless wonder at the beauty, the joy and — oh, if only we could know it at the time! — the folly of youth.