NORMAN — A grim play was magically transformed into a satisfying Rodgers and Hammerstein musical — with big emotions “bustin out all over” like the month of June — in a University of Oklahoma preview of “Carousel.”
A spirited company of actors and dancers, backed by two pianists, sang and danced its many memorable numbers, needing only minimal movable props, at Weitzenhoffer Theatre, 563 Elm Ave.
The musical is set on the Maine coast in the 1870s-'80s, where there is plenty of sexual electricity between manly men, wresting a living from the sea, and ladies in long dresses weaving garments at the mill.
A single painted horse and descending flags and ribbons were all that were needed in “The Carousel Waltz,” which opened the show on a high note of people making the most of things and celebrating winter's end. The company performed this number with great verve and a gusto surpassed only by that with which they delivered “June Is Bustin' Out All Over,” later in the first act, and “A Real Nice Clambake,” the second act opener.
Nearly stealing the show, even more dramatically, was “Blow High, Blow Low,” an all-male first act paean to masculinity, performed on portable piers.
Brooke Lacey was sweetly poignant and wistful as Julie Jordan, while Jordan Barron gave the right aura of mystery to the carousel barker Billy Bigelow. The two performers teamed beautifully in the world's greatest hypothetical love song, “If I Loved You” — a number Barron later reprised, in moving fashion, when he returns for one day from “the other side.”
Barron did a fine job, too, of exploiting Billy's equally hypothetical and justly famous “Soliloquy,” speculating on feats his son may achieve, then wondering, with great comic charm, what happens if it's a girl!
Alexis Bruza was just peppery and pithy enough as Julie's best friend, Carrie, teaming up with her soulfully in “You're a Queer One, Julie Jordan,” and singing, with wonderful simplicity, of her new love, in “Mister Snow.”
Storm Lineberger earned plenty of bittersweet humorous capital as Enoch Snow.
Perry Sook got across the rough humor as well as villainy of Billy's criminal buddy, and Kyra Faith Wharton was solid and supportive as Julie's relative, assuring her that “You'll Never Walk Alone” after her husband's death.
“Carousel” was directed with a great feeling of what was important, without over doing it, by Shawn Churchman. Other assets were Jon Young's streamlined scenic designs and Jenava Burguiere's period costumes. It is recommended and well worth attending.
— John Brandenburg