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Monday, April 14, 2008

The Carousel - School Musical Play



We were then young and gay(before the word acquires a new meaning) and gave our best to the school musical produced by Mr. and Mrs. Watts and the other teachers of the English Section of the Methodist School These teachers also idealistic but intelligent and well educated young foeign teachers in the Methodist Secondary School. Our School then was divided into two sections: the Chinese and the English Sections or Departments.

Our play was a tremendous success as it was a great combined effort of staff and students, mainly from Form four upwards. There were more than 50 students involved.

The song, You Never Walk Alone, came from this musical. And somehow this song has been a part of my life since then.

As I write about this musical production I just cannot help but remember all my teachers (Mr. and Mrs. Watts, the late Mrs. Purnell, Mr. Funk, Mr. Wiltshire)and friends (Sheila Kang, Winnie Yii, Charles Yip, Hii King Lee,the late Cheng Hua Chuang, Maimunah Nazarene and so many others) Thanks for the memories. It was a gread show!! And it provided a great impetus for all of us to enjoy the arts for the rest of our life. How enriching it was.

Plot Synopsis:

Two young female millworkers in freshly industrialized 1870s New England visit the town's carousel after work. One of them — demure Julie Jordan — shares a lingering glance and is flirted with by the carousel's barker, Billy Bigelow (instrumental piece: "Carousel Waltz").

Mrs. Mullin, owner of the carousel, arrives and tells Julie never to return to the carousel because Julie let Billy put his arm around her during the ride. Julie's friend, Carrie Pipperidge, and Julie argue with Mrs. Mullin. Billy arrives and initially sides with Mrs. Mullin (who flirts with him outrageously) until he realizes that Mrs. Mullin is just jealous of Julie, at which point he switches sides and is fired from his job. Carrie presses Julie for information about the carousel ride with Billy, but Julie is reticent about the encounter ("You're a Queer One, Julie Jordan"). Eventually satisfied, Carrie confides that she has a beau of her own: local fisherman Enoch Snow ("Mister Snow").

Billy returns and makes it clear that only Julie should stay with him. Carrie leaves after revealing that, if they stay out, they will lose their jobs at the mill. Mr. Bascombe, owner of the mill, and a policeman appear and warn Julie that Billy has taken money from other women. Bascombe offers to take Julie home so she can keep her job, but she refuses and gets fired, too. She and Billy, now alone, can talk freely, but neither can quite confess the growing attraction they feel for each other ("If I Loved You").

A month passes. At a spa owned by Julie's cousin, Nettie Fowler, sailors appear with clams for the evening's clambake. They are noisy, which spurs Carrie and the other female townfolk to jeer at them (this section is sung as a sort of recitative, rather than spoken). Nettie arrives and, spotting the sexual tension, leads them all in celebrating love and spring. An elaborate dance ensues ("June Is Bustin' Out All Over"). The men leave as Julie, now married to Billy, arrives. (He and his whaler friend Jigger have been missing all night.) Nettie tells Carrie to comfort Julie.

To divert the other girls from their eavesdropping, Nettie then unsuccessfully encourages the girls to clean up. Julie confides in Carrie that Billy, now unemployed and living with Julie at Nettie's, is unhappy over the loss of his job and, out of frustration, has slapped Julie. Carrie also has happier news — she and Enoch are to be married. At this, the girls who have so far been feigning work, rush over, congratulate Carrie, and imagine the wedding day (reprise: "Mister Snow"). Enoch has arrived and startles the girls by joining them in song. The girls leave Julie, Carrie, and Enoch alone.

Carrie tries to converse with Julie and Enoch, but Julie's unhappiness overcomes her: she bursts into tears in Enoch's arms. As she pulls herself together, Billy arrives with Jigger. He is openly rude to Enoch and then Julie, and he soon leaves along with Jigger, followed by a distraught Julie. Left alone, Carrie and Enoch extol the virtues of a life plan. Enoch reveals how he expects both to become rich selling canned sardines and to have a large family with Carrie ("When The Children Are Asleep").

Meanwhile, Billy, Jigger, and other whalers sing of life on the sea ("Blow High, Blow Low"). The singing segues into a dance, with the local girls flirting with the whalers. Jigger tries to recruit Billy to help with a robbery, but Billy declines when Jigger tells him that the victim might have to be killed. Mrs. Mullin arrives and tries to tempt Billy back to the carousel (and to her), and he reveals he is unhappy with Julie. Julie arrives. There is almost an argument, but Mrs. Mullin leaves to go to the bank. Julie tells Billy of her pregnancy and they go inside. Mrs. Mullin and Jigger return and spar until Billy comes back out and tells Mrs. Mullin to leave. Overwhelmed with happiness by the news, and determined to provide financially for his future child, Billy decides to be Jigger's accomplice after all ("Soliloquy").

Act 1 ends with the whole town leaving for the clambake. Billy, who previously shunned the idea of going to the clambake, now realizes it is integral to his and Jigger's alibi: he decides to go too. Julie is delighted.


Act II
The act begins with the town reminiscing about the huge meal that they have just eaten ("This Was a Real Nice Clambake"). As everyone leaves to help clear up before the treasure hunt, Jigger tries to seduce Carrie. Unfortunately, Enoch walks in while Carrie is in a compromising position. He declares that he is finished with her ("Geraniums In The Winder"), as Jigger jeers ("Stonecutters Cut It On Stone"). The girls try to comfort Carrie, saying all men are bad; they urge Julie to leave Billy. Instead, Julie replies that you should stand by your man through thick and thin ("What's The Use Of Wondrin'?"). She sees Billy trying to sneak away with Jigger and, while trying to stop him, feels the knife hidden in his shirt. She begs him to give it to her, but he refuses and leaves to commit the robbery. Julie realizes that Billy is about to do something that may get him in trouble.

Jigger and Billy gamble, using cards. At stake is their shares of the anticipated robbery spoils. Billy loses his share of the expected proceeds: his participation is now pointless. Mr. Bascombe, the intended robbery victim, has already deposited the money he was expected to be carrying. He instead carries a gun. The robbery fails: Bascombe pulls his gun and starts shooting. Jigger escapes, but the police corner Billy. Billy stabs himself with his knife and dies; Julie arrives too late.

Carrie tells Julie that Billy's death is not necessarily a bad thing. Enoch gets back together with Carrie and supports this view. Mrs. Mullin arrives, much to the disgust of the townfolk, but Julie lets her view the body. Mrs. Mullin does so, then runs off weeping. Everyone leaves except Julie, and Nettie, who comforts Julie ("You'll Never Walk Alone").

Billy arrives at heaven's gate. There, a pair of blunt-spoken angels explain that, to enter, he must alleviate the distress he caused. Billy refuses to see a simple magistrate in Heaven: he demands to be taken directly to God to be judged ("The Highest Judge Of All"). The Starkeeper angel sends him back to earth. Stealing a star on the way down, he returns fifteen years after his suicide. His daughter, Louise, is now an angry and rebellious teen, mocked by Mr. Snow's snobbish and wealthy children because her father was a thief (instrumental: "Louise's Ballet").

Enoch and his children stop by Julie's house to pick up Carrie on the way to the graduation, and Enoch's son (Enoch Jr.) waits behind to talk to Louise. Louise reveals she plans to run away from home with a carnival troupe she met. But when Enoch Jr. proposes, she decides to stay. He reveals, however, that his father would not think Louise an appropriate match. Insulted, Louise orders him to leave and bursts into tears.

Billy, able to make himself visible or invisible at will, reveals himself to Louise; he pretends to be a friend of her father. Trying to cheer her up, he offers her a small gift — the star he stole from Heaven. She refuses it and, frustrated, he slaps her. As he makes himself invisible, Louise tells Julie what has happened. She reveals that the slap miraculously felt like a kiss, not a blow. Without allowing her to actually see him, Billy finally confesses his love to Julie (reprise: "If I Loved You"). Having thus made amends, he invisibly attends Louise's high-school graduation. The whole town shuns her and refuses to applaud her. Dr. Seldon, who strangely resembles the Starkeeper, tells the graduating class not to rely on their parents' success (advice directed at Enoch Jr.) or be held back by their parents' mistakes (directed at Louise). Seldon then leads everyone in a final chorus (reprise: "You'll Never Walk Alone"). Billy, still invisible, whispers to Louise, telling her to have confidence in herself. His silent words enter her mind and, inspired, she -- along with Julie -- joins the singing. This good deed redeems Billy, who wins entry into Heaven.

Note: The graduation scene is a complete departure from Molnar's Liliom, in which Liliom is presumably condemned to Hell after slapping his daughter (even though, in Molnar's play, the slap also feels like a kiss).

(Notes from Wikipedia)

2 memories:

AlisonBuda said...

Is the poster from your school days??

sarawakiana said...

no this is the latest one. Madison Repertory Theatre.

I love musicals especially Rodgers and Hammerstein.

Actually there is a film version too. I saw it many years ago.

 

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