"All That Is Right and Wonderful"
I saw the Rodgers and Hammerstein's Broadway classic "Carousel" at a local semi-professional community theatre tonight, and found out for myself why "Carousel" is the least-performed of that Rodgers & Hammerstein's great works.
It's just a mess, children.
The show straddles about three genres and tears a hamstring doing it. Also, "It Was a Real Nice Clambake" is, just as you suspected, one of the worst numbers ever written for the musical stage.
It was a real nice clambake.
We're mighty glad we came.
The vittels we et
were good, you bet.
The company was the same.
Your honor, I rest my case.
You've doubtless heard that the leading male character Billy Bigelow smacks his wife Julie Jordan around. Yea, he does. Or he hits her once, or something. Anyway, they have a miserable relationship and he kills himself and is given a chance to go back to earth for one day and make his karma right by doing something good for a change. He encounters his 15 year old daughter and has a little conversation with her, during which she becomes suspicious and agitated, and he smacks her. He disappears, poof, back to the heaven, and thus follows some really atrocious dialogue about how his smack felt "like a kiss," and as the now-invisible Billy (as a spirit, or an angel) watches, Julie explains to her daughter that yes, someone kin hit ya real hard, and jis' sometimes, it jis' don't hurt somehow.
At which point I looked over at M. and we made serious disapproval faces at each other. Like, "Oh no you DITINT just say that." And we sucked our teeth.
You know that Shirley Jones played Julie Jordan in the movie, right? Well, she's too old for that role now, so it was played by the gorgeous and talented Sarah Pfisterer. But for nostalgia's sake, and because we love her, Shirley Jones played ole Aunt Nettie who gets to wear aprons and spout homely bromides and hug people a lot, and sing "You'll Never Walk Around" with a serious Sensaround vibrato.
(why do these people sound like they're from Alabammy, when the play is set in Maine, ya'll?)
So Miss Shirley Jones played Aunt Nettie, a very supporting role, but she got extra tippy-top billing and this is how her THREE PAGE program bio begins:
"SHIRLEY JONES: AMERICA'S ULTIMATE LADY"
(big, huge Glamour Shot photo here)
"Shirley Jones' story is almost Hollywood legend, and it remains a living part of the lady that continues to work and grow and nurture her unique role as the embodiment of all that is right and wonderful about the American woman."
No, it really says that.
It really does.
And it goes on like that for three more pages, single space, tiny font.
This all leads me to want to say highly sarcastic and unkind things about Miss Jones, but I will withstand that temptation out of respect for cinema's original Julie Jordan ("Carousel"), Marian Paroo ("The Music Man"), Laurey ("Oklahoma"), and Mrs. Partridge.
The best thing by far about the show were the several ballets contained therein, one of which was danced with gorgeous agility by Miss Kitty Skillman Hilsabeck, giving us Agnes De Mille's original choreography. It occurred to me that it has been many decades since we've seen ballets in musical theatre pieces, and it was an unexpected joy and privilege to see DeMille's work presented with such perfect commitment, with absolutely nothing of 2005 about it. (It helped a lot that David Loveless put every single last person on that stage in totally perfect costumes and wigs, and don't think I didn't appreciate the details, Mr. Loveless. The sad, rolled up little pantaloons that Louise wore in her ballet were unbelievably poignant. You're a dream.)
So that was amazing and made me feel as though I was sitting in the theatre in the 1940's -- or -- wait, I have to look that up -- whenever "Carousel" originally played on the Great White Way.
[It was 1945 -- P.B.]
For now, this embodiment of all that is right and wonderful about the American woman is going to sleep.