Wilkes University Theatre to Stage Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Carousel” from Nov. 16-19

by Kelly Clisham
Photo of Raven Whitefawn as Julie Jordan and Jahel Duran-Diaz as Billy Bigelow rehearsing a scene from Carousel

Wilkes University Theatre will take audiences for a spin with a production of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Carousel at 8 p.m. on Nov. 16, 17 & 18, and 2 p.m. on Nov. 18 & 19, at the Dorothy Dickson Darte Center for the Performing Arts.

Carousel opened at Broadway’s Majestic Theatre in 1945, running for nearly 900 performances and launching a national tour. The musical was the subject of three Broadway revivals, most recently in 2018, and received the big screen treatment in 1956.

Set on the coast of Maine in the late 1800s, Carousel focuses on the turbulent romance and troubled marriage of Billy Bigelow, a carnival barker, and Julie Jordan, a millworker. While the couple’s love takes center stage, the story also deals with the difficult issues of violence and retribution, before delivering a message of hope and redemption.

Alison Morooney, serving as director and choreographer, addressed the darker elements of the show with her cast on the first day of rehearsal to make sure they were ready to dive into their roles. “Sometimes they have to play characters that are objectively harmful to others. It requires a lot of empathy and a clear understanding of what our production is trying to say,” says Morooney. “The challenge of Carousel is usually the content. With our students, the content is worthy work.”

The production provides Wilkes students with an opportunity to hone the skills they need to perform in the Golden Age musical style. This experience with big, broad vocals and dance numbers typical of the era helps to make the cast members more competitive in the industry.

On the other side of the curtain, the production gives audiences a chance to enjoy well-known music from a show not often staged in the region. “Carousel has one of the most beautiful scores in all of musical theatre,” says Morooney. “With famous songs like ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ and ‘If I Loved You,’ people will be sure to hear some gorgeous singing accompanied by a live orchestra.”

The principal cast features Raven Whitefawn (Julie Jordan), Jahel Duran-Diaz (Billy Bigelow), Rachel Kern (Carrie Pipperidge), Olivia Scarborough (Nettie Fowler), Caleb Flannery (Enoch

Snow) and Jack Flynn (Jigger Craigan/Carnival Boy). The ensemble includes Kasey Karoll, Jay’na Johnson, Isabella Mendez, Jesse Lawson, Isaiah Brown, Bella Ruiz, Sammie Gashi, Maddie Meier, Charley Cain, Sara Pugliese, Cally Williams, Kaiden Harris and Savannah Evanski.

In addition to Morooney as director/choreographer, the production staff includes Joshua Harper (musical director), Joel Graham (pit orchestra conductor), Vandy Scoates (scenic/lighting designer), Lisa Liebetrau (costume designer) and Lee Michaels (sound designer/technical director). Student staff features Caleb Gething as production stage manager, with Noah Dixon, Ella Villani and Elena Disciullo as assistant stage managers. Kasey Karoll serves as dance captain and Maddie Meier serves as fight/intimacy captain.

“The sheer size of this show makes it a challenge to produce. Each rehearsal has a lot of moving parts to make sure everything is ready for showtime,” says Morooney. “It takes a village, but we have a great one full of hardworking students and faculty.”

Audience members can now purchase tickets online at wilkes.edu/theatre. Tickets are $20 general admission, $15 for students/senior citizens and free with ID for Wilkes students, faculty and staff. The box office will open one hour before curtain for purchases in person. Questions? Call 570-408-4540.

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