Director Cyndi Steele-Harrod claims “This ain’t your grandmother’s Carousel!” Perhaps not, but I know of a few grandmothers who would be entranced. “Carousel” is the latest production from the Poteet Theatre at St. Luke’s Church. Showing through July 31, 2011, “Carousel” is the tear-jerking story of a young couple and the course of their lives and deaths from 1873 to 1888. Billy Bigelow is a young apparently happy-go-lucky and irresponsible ‘carny’ barker who falls in love with a young ‘towny’, Julie Jordan. Although he loves her very much, Billy feels trapped by his impending responsibilities as a father to be. His choices are all the worst choices a young man can make and he and his family pay a heavy price. The heart wrenching story shows the penalties and redemption that he faces.
The director’s set design and staging provide excellent advantage for all the performers to make the most of each part. The cast is quite large and the rather small arena handles the large number of dancers and singers on stage quite well due to Steele-Harrod’s expertise. Music Director, Kevin Smith and Choreographers Jessica Biddy and Sherri Smith create an environment in which song and dance reign sublime.
Exceptional performances are given by Kristin Fitzgerald as lovely Julie Jordan, Leah Coleman as her irrepressible friend, Carrie Pepperidge, Marcy Gonzales as Julie’s aunt Nettie Fowler and, in dance, Alisha Ragon as Louise, the young daughter of Julie and Billy. These gals are all at the top of their game, and reveal a great deal of talent in this poignant vehicle. Andy Biddy as Billy Bigelow gives a very well done performance, however a little more boyish irresponsibility in the very early scenes would make his transition from carefree, ne’er do well youth to desperate father in reduced circumstances a little more vibrant.
Additional notable performances are given by Shawna Linck as Mrs. Mullin, the not quite respectable proprietor of the Carousel, John Steele as the Starkeeper, Adam Shelton as stuffed shirt Enoch Snow, Andrew Himes as bad boy Jigger Craiggin, Donna Mackie as the Heavenly Friend and Paul Smith with Key Lehman as Mr. & Mrs. Bascombe, upright citizens.
“Carousel” is clearly a group effort for a small theatre that works hard on every production. Executive Director, Jay Prock found an experienced and talented director for an ambitious show. Giving Steele-Harrod support rather than interference and allowing her the time to amass a wonderful cast is evident. The assembled cast seems excited and privileged to work under her direction. The result is a highly professional experience for cast and crew to provide for an appreciative Oklahoma audience. The efforts of the program: Arts @ St Luke’s provide a wonderful opportunity for aspiring talent in many areas.
So since this “Carousel” is not ‘your grandmother’s’ she’d quite likely love to go if she is still around. If she’s not—she’ll meet you there! Ask any Heavenly Friend.
“Carousel” is currently showing at the Poteet through July 21, 2011. Show times are Thursday through Saturday at 8pm and Sunday matinees at 3pm. Tickets can be purchased at poteettheatre.com or by calling the box office at 405.609-1023.