House lights dim and a sweet sense of nostalgia rises as the old classics drift into mind: "If I Loved You," "Mr. Snow," "June is Bustin' Out All Over," "When the Children are Asleep," "A Real Nice Clambake," "You'll Never Walk Alone."
Breath deeply and you're suddenly watching The Carousel Waltz as director David Arisco's twenty-five member cast, and what a cast they are, open “Carousel” in a swirl of brilliant costumes, glorious singing, dancing and music from show business heaven. It's the 1870s on New England's Maine coast.
Sure, it's a little creaky by our over pleasured standards and it's a little long for our twitter minds, but every minute of “Carousel” reflects Actors' Playhouse thirty years of excellent musicals.
Michael Hunsaker, the epitome of a tall, broad shouldered, good looking, musical hero smoking with talent, is Billy Bigelow, barker at Mrs. Mullin's (the itchy-for-the-boy Laura Turnbull) town carousel. He loves the girls who ride and they love him and he's more than happy. Until he meets the quietly cute but I know what I want and I'll certainly get it Julie, the perfectly cast Julie Kleiner. Julie and Billy marry and the usual ensues. She gets knocked up, and he delighted, manages to knock himself off.
Bitter sweet doesn't begin to cover the shift to Heaven where Billy meets the Starkeeper, the delightfully acerbic Peter Haig. It's now fifteen years later and Billy gets one more chance to return to life for one day to meet his teenage daughter. Of course he screws that up, too, but the Starkeeper, being a nice old guy, gives Billy one last chance to declare his love for Julie and their daughter.
Seems I've jumped to the closing curtain way too soon so here're the other super talented players. There's Nick Duckart as the swarthy no good sailor Jigger, who plays Billy like an organ grinder, big voiced Lauren Lukacek playing Carrie, Julie's best friend who falls for Enoch Snow, played with loving panache by Mark Sanders and speaking of knocking up, they have more kids than countable and yes, they do appear.
Lourelene Snedeker is the clambake queen and she too, sings the sand right off the stage. Kevin Reilly is the screwed tight, God aware factory owner, Mr. Bascombe, and is also the school principal at the finale graduation ceremony where Peter Haig returns as the weirdly kindly Doctor Seldon.
And deserving mention all by themselves are Alexandra Van Hasselt as Billy's daughter, Louise who performs the ballet scene with Macia McGeorge, an especially supple and engaging dancer.
And speaking of dancing, you're going to be delighted with choreographer Ron Hutchins' spectacular work and his spectacularly acrobatic dancers. Clad in Ellis Tillman's gorgeous costumes they light up the theater. And that's a good thing, because I found the lighting generally too dim. Setting the moods, I guess.
Caryl Fantel is the musical director and she also conducts the excellent eight piece orchestra: Rupert Ziawinski, bass; Roy Fantel, drums/percussion; Karen Nagy, keyboard 2; Jean-Claude Misset, trumpet; Jason Pyle, trombone; Andrea Gilbert, woodwinds, and Liuba Ohrimenco, violin.
Tim Bennett produced a set of many multi purpose colorful flats: factory, carousel, forest, apartment, clam stand, house, dock, tavern, island, beach, heaven and on and on. Lights were designed by Eric Nelson and the sound by Shaun Mitchell. Jodi Dellaventura, designed the properties. The wigs showing the passing of the years are the work of Gerard Kelly,
Arisco perfectly captures the tenor of 1940s musicals, clunks included. It's a lovingly produced revival of a lovely old show and by golly, I loved it.
“Carousel” plays through February 26 at Actors' Playhouse at the Miracle Theater, 280 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables. 305-444-9293 www.actorsplayhouse.org