Review: In ‘Carousel,’ a sad tale of doomed love goes round and round

Rodgers & Hammerstein have written some of the most heart-wrenching musicals ever to grace the American stage, none more tragic or poignant than “Carousel.”Its romantic protagonists are ashamed to admit their love for each other, and the story, based on Ferenc Molnar’s 1909 play “Liliom,” is as cruel, stark and unforgiving as any R&H opus: The hero slaps his girlfriend around, plans a violent robbery when he discovers she’s pregnant, and fatally stabs himself to avoid police capture.As Musical Theatre West’s revival proves, “Carousel” is R&H’s most moving show — as heartfelt as “South Pacific” or “The King and I” but minus much of the schmaltz.

Sundays, 6 p.m. Sunday, 8 p.m. 4; Thursday.Where: Richard and Karen Carpenter Performing Arts Center, 6200 E. Atherton St., Long Beach.Tickets: $17-$95.Length: 3 hrs.Suitability: All ages.Information: 562-856-1999, ext. Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. ★★★&#xbdWhen: Through April 9. 8 p.m. Saturdays, 1 p.m.
The bulk of the actors deliver spot-on New England/Maine dialects, in pleasing contrast to Carpenter’s New Yorkese as Billy, who hails from Coney Island.Billy Bigelow is one of theater’s most ambivalent characters, a roustabout who wants to turn his life around and do right by Julie but isn’t up to the task. In Carpenter’s hands, this casually flirty ladies man is foolhardy, yet hard to dislike – brimming with bravado that’s mostly a pose. MTW’s staging fairly crackles with tension and atmosphere, and it doesn’t hurt that the show’s book and dialogue favor realism over artifice.

Mullin and Jeff Skowron as Jigger Craigin – but that only partly explains its considerable strengths. In fact, MTW’s revival is beautifully directed by Joe Langworth, music-directed by Dennis Castellano and choreographed by Daniel Smith for maximum dramatic and musical impact.The staging’s success is bolstered by top-notch lead performances – Doug Carpenter and Amanda Leigh Jerry as doomed lovers Billy Bigelow and Julie Jordan; Amanda Hootman and Justin Cowden as Carrie Pipperidge and Enoch Snow; and Sarah Uriarte Berry as Nettie Fowler, Erica Hanrahan-Ball as Mrs.

Karen St. Mullin and Billy and her antagonism toward Julie and Carrie. Pierre’s costumes cover two distinct eras — 1879 and 1894 — and two distinct social classes — the workaday sailors, fishermen and mill workers of a small Maine coastal town, and their wealthier neighbors.The opening scene introduces the characters as they interact in pantomime to the haunting “Carousel Waltz,” its climax shrewdly using the stage’s turntable to create the illusion of a working carousel, replete with colorfully painted horses.Director Langworth doesn’t overplay the show’s comedic aspects — “Carousel” is, after all, essentially a late 19th-century soap opera; he sets the stage early on by playing the light comedy, yet ratcheting up the palpable tension between Mrs.