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'Carousel' goes for a spin

photo courtesy of Jacob konst/the desert yearbook
By Lauren Hillery
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, November 4, 2004
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Two friends struggle with love, missed opportunities

Carousels remind most of us of childhood days at the carnival and fighting with siblings over who got to ride which animal. However, Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Carousel," - which will be put on by the Arizona Repertory Theatre - does not follow traditional musical styles when it touches on much deeper and realistic issues.

"It's a dark story. The lead character is a wife-beater. It's about where relationships can go and how people can redeem themselves," said director and theatre arts professor Harold Dixon.

Based on the Hungarian play, "Liliom," "Carousel" is about two best friends who live and work in a mill. According to Dixon, it is about their struggle to break free from their slave-like conditions.

However, the dark side of the story stems from the romantic struggle between one factory worker Julie Jordan, played by Alison Pahler, a musical theater junior, and Billy Bigelow, played by Benjamin Crawford, a musical theater senior, and the issues in each of their personal lives.

When Bigelow's wife becomes pregnant, he struggles financially to support the family and ends up killing himself. However, once in heaven, he is given the opportunity to come back to Earth and try to resolve his problems, including issues with his daughter.

Dixon describes the play as being about regret and missed opportunities, but says that those themes are what make the play sincere.

"It's a very sweet story, very touching," said Dixon.

In fact, Dixon said, after the first read-through of the script, three-quarters of the cast could not finish singing the last song because they were in tears.

"Carousel" was originally shown on Broadway in 1945, but it has not been performed in Tucson since 1959.

For that time period, Dixon believes the show was revolutionary.

"I think it was really ahead of this time. The more we look at this the more we can't believe that they did it at that time," Dixon said.

The show includes singing, acting and theater dance, but it also offers a specially choreographed ballet pas de deux (a ballet with only two dancers) replacing the original ballet in the musical. Dixon asked Nina Janik, associate dance professor, to choreograph the dance, which is performed by two UA dance students.

The show also has a unique set designed by Zoe Shiffrin theater production senior, that offers a more abstract view of the show's setting in Maine, according to Dixon.

Musical theatre junior Sarah Spigelman, Carrie Pipperidge, says the combination of the sets and costumes offer a realistic look for the time period.

"We have these amazing costumes that complement the lights and sets and really add to the authenticity and believability of the story," Spigelman said. "The sets are quite an undertaking. They include a number of carousel horses, a moveable pier and two large rocky, cliff-like units."

But Spigelman thinks students will most be able to relate to the themes of "Carousel."

"The main theme is just knowing that as bad as things might get, there is always a reason for everything, and that if you have ever loved anyone, you never have to go through those rough times truly alone," Spigelman said.

Previews of "Carousel" are Friday and Monday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 1:30 p.m. It will run regularly from Wednesday through Nov. 13, Nov. 17 through 19, on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 through Dec. 4 at 7:30 p.m. at Marroney Theatre on the southeast corner of Park Avenue and Speedway Boulevard.

Tickets are available through UA Fine Arts Box Office, 621-1162.

There will also be a pre-show discussion in the directing studio, Theater Arts Room 116, Nov. 18 at 6:45 p.m. where audience members can learn more about the show's origins.

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