Monday, May 31, 2010
The Genius of Rodgers and Hammerstein: Carousel
Julie’s friend, Carrie (Barbara Ruick), has taken a different path and marries Mr. Snow (Robert Rounseville), a rather dull but dependable man who promises to be a solid husband. There are two numbers sung by Carrie, “When I Marry Mr. Snow” and “When The Children Are Asleep” which are lovely and tender. Julie understands the difference between her husband and the steadfast Mr. Snow, but she never wavers in her love and loyalty to Billy.
Years later, Billy is given the chance by the Starkeeper (Gene Lockhart, who also doubles as the village minister) to return to earth for one day to see if he can help his daughter Louise (Susan Luckey ), now a troubled teenager. For me, the number “Louise’s Ballet” is the tour de force of this film, and is worth seeing just on its own. Famed ballet dancer Jacque D’Ambois dances the part of a carousel barker, using dancers to form a magical impression of a carousel and horses. Louise is captivated by her dreams of the father she never knew, and her budding feelings of love for the handsome barker. It is a number not to be missed.
Originally, the part of Billy Bigelow was to be played by Frank Sinatra. As much as I love Sinatra’s singing and acting, I think he would have been totally miscast. He left the production after learning that for the technique of Cinemascope each scene would have to be filmed twice. McRae was hired and filming continued. Interestingly, immediately after Sinatra’s departure, the filming process was changed and the need for that technique was no longer necessary. McRae had the part for which he was perfect.
The part of Julie was originally offered to Judy Garland, also in my opinion a casting mistake. However, that never materialized, and popular Shirley Jones took over. Shirley said that Carousel was her favorite musical. Richard Rogers also said that his score for Carousel was his favorite.
Carousel began as a Broadway musical, with John Raitt in the part of Billy. I have heard Raitt’s performance, particularly the Soliloquy, and his rendition actually surpasses McRae’s, as good as McRae was. You may know that Raitt is the father of country singing star Bonnie Raitt.
The "Carousel Waltz," heard at the beginning of the film is one of Richard Rogers’ most beautiful numbers. It sets the haunting tone for this unusual and brilliant work. Rodgers and Hammerstein's creation of depth and eloquent pathos done in the musical genre is without equal.