Add a dash of music, a touch of drama, a splash of comedy, and an ounce of imagination, what do you have? You have the recipe for success with the production of “Carousel” which opened Friday night, at the Spencer Theatre on the UMKC campus. The musical by Rodgers and Hammerstein is produced by the The Living Room Theatre and is being presented by the Kansas City Repertory Theatre.
Kyle Hatley, the Kansas City Repertory Associate Artistic Director, directs this tale of a carnival barker and the girl who falls in love with him. With simple sets, intricate lighting and only a few props, Hatley and his team are able to make the audience feel they are on a carousel, in a park or on a clam bake. The use of suspended light bulbs, turned on by the cast as they enter and leave the stage or sections of it is innovative and the theater-in-the-round setting gives the audience a sense of personal involvement.
Rusty Sneary, Artistic Director for The Living Room Theatre, stars in the lead role of Billy Bigelow, the role he played two years ago in the first production by the Living Room Theatre, the roustabout who lives off the women he meets and exploits. Sneary does an excellent job of acting and at times singing; though there are times his singing is a little rough, which intentional or not adds to the persona of Bigelow as an unrefined carnival worker.
Molly Denninghoff starring as Julie has a fabulous singing voice and stage presence. Anyone would have been hard pressed to find an actress who could have given a better performance in the role. During the death scene Denninghoff showcases her remarkable acting talent with a gripping performance that sets the standard higher for others to follow.
Carrie is superbly played by Liz Clark Golson as the friend and confidant to Julie. She brings an excitement to the stage every time she enters the scene. She provides the comic relief that the audience so desperately needs at times during such a dramatic piece.
Daria LeGrand plays Louise, the daughter of Billy Bigelow who is about to graduate high school. LeGrand truly sells to the audience that Louise, even though she can’t see Billy, senses that he is present during the graduation ceremonies.
Steven Eubank, the Artistic Director for Egads Theatre Company, provided the choreography for the production. With flips and twists the dance numbers far exceeded those that have been presented by most of the other theater groups in Kansas City.
“Carousel” continues at the Spencer Theatre through March 31.