DVD Review: CAROUSEL (Live From Lincoln Center)

by Dale Reynolds on March 20, 2017

in CD-DVD,Theater-New York

Post image for DVD Review: CAROUSEL (Live From Lincoln Center)

A CAROUSEL FOR THE AGES

Concert versions of famous Broadway fare are almost always exciting and delightful. But the Live from Lincoln Center production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s 1945 Carousel, just released on DVD after being recorded four years ago, hits all the right spots of attraction: gorgeous music, great singers from Broadway and the opera world, terrific acting, two brilliant ballet stars, 71 New York Philharmonic musicians (under the baton of Rob Fisher), and sumptuous lighting and staging.

Based on Hungarian Ferenc Molnár’s bitter 1909 drama, Liliom, Hammerstein’s script transferred the action to the Maine coastline of 1873. Liliom, now named Billy Bigelow (handsome lyric baritone Nathan Gunn), is a carny barker, a medium low-life, who falls in love and marries spirited Julie Jordan (Kelli O’Hara), impregnates her, and dies in a botched robbery attempt. Now in purgatory, he’s given one last chance to return to earth and do one good deed. He becomes frustrated trying to placate his now-teen-aged daughter, Louise, who feels his angered slap but not the pain of it.

There’s a lovely secondary plotline of Julie’s best friend, Carrie (glorious-voiced soprano Jessie Mueller) and her beau, fisherman Enoch Snow (Jason Danieley). The small role of Billy’s boss-lady, Mrs. Mullin, is played by Kate Burton and the Starkeeper of Heaven is played by the beloved John Cullum. The greatest find here is mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe as Julie’s cousin, Nettie Fowler. And veteran Shuler Hensley is the bully-villain, Jigger Craigin.

This score is Rodgers’ finest, with semi-operatic duets and Billy’s glorious “Soliloquy.” The “If I Loved You” duet for Julie and Billy is one of the finest songs ever composed for the Broadway stage.

Another highlight is the Act II ballet between New York City Ballet principals Robert Fairchild (Carousel Boy) and Tiler Peck (Louise). The extraordinary dancing (choreography by Warren Carlyle) illustrates both the frustrations of a troubled adolescent and the intense love that Julie and Billy no longer share after his death (or do they?).

Why it took PBS four years to release this production is a mystery. Still, the glorious story and singing, and the stunningly effective “Carousel Waltz” at the beginning, is captured with the cunning camera work of director Glenn Weiss, who even makes the New York Phil a fully-fleshed-out character in this 70-year-old masterpiece.

The deeply interesting bonus section contains interviews with various participants describing their own reactions to the material. And hosting the program is multi-talented Audra McDonald, who, as a recent Julliard graduate Audra Ann McDonald, won her first Tony playing Carrie in the 1994 Lincoln Center revival.

You owe it to  yourself to buy or rent this superior DVD.

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photos by Chris Lee

Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Carousel
Live From Lincoln Center /
The New York Philharmonic
PBS Distribution
released February 28, 2017 (taped March 2013)
150 minutes | no rating | SRP $24.99
available on Shop PBS and Amazon

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