Arts & Culture

A winning version of ‘Carousel’

Theatre Raleigh finished its highly successful, ambitiously conceived 2015 summer series with a winning concert version of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Carousel.”

The term “concert” is a misnomer here. Although the 34-piece Barton College/Wilson Symphony Orchestra is on stage, the action is fully played out with the 10 principals and 18 ensemble members, employing costumes, set pieces, props and lighting effects.

Sherry Lee Allen demonstrates her astute, experienced hand with precise, energetic direction, bringing out the musical’s joy and romance, while giving the tragic scenes proper attention without over-emphasizing darker levels. Her choreography challenges the relatively young cast, but the actors’ commitment and enthusiasm defuse any quibbles.

The production is dominated by Dan Callaway’s carnival barker, Billy. His powerful rendering of the nearly operatic “Soliloquy” is appropriately show stopping and his “If I Love You” duet with Sunny Banks’ Julie, the young mill worker who falls for Billy, is meltingly affecting. Banks’ pleasant singing is enhanced by her projection of Julie’s firm devotion to Billy, despite his flaws.

Alexandra May gives Julie’s perky friend, Carrie, a most engaging characterization, her charm brightening the stage. She’s joined by Jade Arnold’s beaming, preacher-like Mr. Snow, her husband-to-be, in sweetly amusing duets.

Carly Prentis Jones plays Nettie, the seaside restaurant owner, with more showbiz pizazz than is generally seen, but her heartfelt singing of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” is a production highlight. Michael Brocki makes lowlife sailor Jigger a humorous baddie; Randi Winter finds the right tomboy aspects of Billy’s daughter, Louise, and T. Philip Caudle nicely varies his multiple roles.

Mark N. Peterson leads the orchestra with attention to the changing emotions of each song, while sensitively underscoring the numerous sections of accompanied dialogue. Curiously, the orchestra-only overture and entr’acte seem less secure and energized. Thomas Mauney’s settings and lighting, along with Allison White’s costumes, add to the impression of a full staging. Eric Alexander Collins’ sound design is the best heard locally in years.

The somewhat trimmed dialogue occasionally leaves out lines necessary to plot clarification, but, overall, the production is highly satisfying, a likely pointer to similar events in Theatre Raleigh’s future.

Dicks: music_theater@lycos.com

If you go

What: “Carousel,” presented by Theatre Raleigh

Where: Fletcher Opera Theater, Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St. Raleigh

When: 8 p.m. Aug. 29; 3 p.m. Aug. 30

Tickets: $36-$45

Info: 919-832-9997 or theatreraleigh.com

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