'Carousel' is a poignant, spiritually uplifting musical

Published: Saturday, Aug. 3 2013 12:00 p.m. MDT

Amber Lee Roberts as Julie Jordan and Sam West as Billy Bigelow in Utah Repertory Theater Company's production of "Carousel."

Jaron Hermansen/Underground Creative

MURRAY — Glorious songs, a postcard New England seaside setting and a spiritually uplifting story of love and redemption have kept “Carousel” among the most beloved American musicals ever created.

Utah Repertory Theater Company will stage the Rodgers and Hammerstein masterpiece Aug. 9-24 at the Murray Theater.

While the songs of “Carousel” — including “If I Loved You” and the hymn-like “You’ll Never Walk Alone” — have endured for their richness and quality, director Johnny Hebda says it’s their emotional complexity that takes the show to another level and makes it a deeply rewarding audience experience.

“The characters in ‘Carousel’ are imperfect people; they are human and living in a difficult time and place,” he says. “Love and passion, abuse and disappointment are important and relevant topics to address as are faith, forgiveness and enduring to the end, and each of those topics is a part of the show. ‘Carousel’ is a powerfully written story with multifaceted characters and a storyline that stands the test of time with its relevance and universal truths.”

Love unspoken, feelings unexpressed, frustration and death are not the usual components of a musical play, yet these are themes Utah Repertory Theater doesn’t shy away from exploring.

“We particularly select shows with powerful messages that may be challenging,” Hebda says. “With its inspirational story of life after death, ‘Carousel’ is the perfect choice to be included in our season, and it’s a show that hasn’t had a major Utah production in nearly a decade. Audiences will relate to the themes of redemption and faith.”

Hebda notes that Time magazine hailed “Carousel” as “the best musical of the 20th century,” and while the musical premiered in 1945, the New York Times called it “still the freshest, most innovative musical, also the most beautiful!”

“The themes of repentance and redemption make the show memorable and poignant, but they are balanced by joyful songs like ‘June Is Bustin’ Out All Over,’ the ‘When I Marry Mr. Snow’ love song and the wistful ‘When the Children Are Asleep,’ ” he says. “Each of the songs of ‘Carousel’ is a classic, and audiences may not be aware they all came from a single Broadway musical.”

Broadway World called Utah Repertory Theater “Utah’s most exciting up-and-coming theater company” as recognition of the company’s “ambition and willingness to produce lesser-known plays and musicals, dealing with sometimes difficult or uncomfortable subject matter, that are refreshing and needed in the state,” Hebda said. “There are many great works that have never made their way to the state. These powerful stories can serve as vehicles to motive and increase our empathy and compassion.”

If you go

What: "Carousel"

Where: The Murray Theater

When: Aug. 9-24, Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays at 7:30 p.m., including select Saturday matinees at 2 p.m.

How much: $18-$20

Tickets: UtahRep.org/tickets

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