The latest revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s landmark musical Carousel officially opened at Broadway’s Imperial Theatre April 12, and the cast of the highly anticipated production greeted Playbill live on the opening night red carpet.
Three-time Tony-winning director Jack O’Brien kicked off the broadcast. Approaching material as iconic as Carousel, O’Brien articulated his goal with this piece: “People always remember the carousel at the beginning but nobody remembers how it ends and I thought ‘That's fascinating.’” And O’Brien packed his cast with incomparable performers to take him and his audience on a journey to that end, including Tony winner Jessie Mueller as Julie Jordan, two-time Tony nominee Joshua Henry as Billy Bigelow, five-time Grammy winner Renée Fleming as Nettie Fowler, Lindsay Mendez as Carrie Pipperidge, Alexander Gemignani as Enoch Snow, Margaret Collin at Mrs. Mullin, and John Douglas Thompson as The Starkeeper.
What’s more, this production brings in two principal dancers from the New York City Ballet—Brittany Pollack and Amar Ramasar—part and parcel of welcoming New York City Ballet’s resident choreographer Justin Peck in his Broadway debut. O’Brien said that dance was truly the way in to this revivalr. “We decided with this production to do a completely danced overture. For me it's thought of as a prologue,” says Peck. “I took a page out of Jerome Robbins' book in that sense with what he did with something like West Side Story.” (To hear Peck speak more about the choreography in depth watch the video above beginning 4:10.)
Ppera star Renée Fleming—here in her second Broadway outing—spoke of the differences and similarities between the opera and theatre worlds and why “If I Loved You” is her favorite song in the show.
Alexander Gemignani shared insight on keeping his voice healthy and dialect work, Margaret Colin lauded designer Ann Roth’s magnificent costumes, and John Douglas Thompson talked about the shared backstory he developed with Joshua Henry for their characters that imbues this staging with new meaning.
When Henry himself came on camera, the new father spoke about how welcoming his first child during the preview process changed how he sings “Soliloquy” each night. “When we were pregnant singing about it I was having all these questions and I would sing the lyrics in the shower and think, 'Whoa, I really wonder what he will think of me and now he's here and I wonder what he will be,'” says Henry, “and the lyrics are the same but they just have a different meaning. Sometimes I have to fight to control the emotions that I'm feeling.”
Mueller, who won the Tony Award for her portrayal of Carole King, presents a much different sound than we’ve heard from her in the past. “This is probably the healthiest singing I've done in quite some time,” she said. (“This is really where I feel like the voice wants to live in its natural state. It's much easier and more free,” agreed Mendez.) How did Mueller go about mastering that style? “I watch Renée Fleming a lot. I listen to Renée Fleming a lot,” Mueller said. “She was like my built-in master class.”
Carousel is now running at the Imperial Theatre.