Showcase March-April 2015 - page 33

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MARCH / APRIL 2015 MINNESOTA ORCHESTRA
mar
19, 20, 21, 22
Program Note
Meredith and Ingrid Bergman. Rodgers and Hammerstein
saw the play but declined to adapt it for a Broadway
musical. The Budapest setting seemed wrong; World War
II was raging; Hungary was under Axis control; and the
story had an unhappy ending. Furthermore, Molnár had
a reputation for refusing permission to adapt his works,
even to such eminent composers as Puccini and
Kurt Weill.
Then Molnár saw
Oklahoma!
—and declared that if
Rodgers and Hammerstein could do for
Liliom
what they
had done for
Green Grow the Lilacs
, the play adapted for
Oklahoma!
, then he would grant them the rights. The
other primary barrier collapsed when Rodgers suggested
moving the locale to Maine. Hammerstein wrote of the
idea: “I began to see an attractive ensemble—sailors,
whalers, girls who worked in the mills up the river,
clambakes on near-by islands, an amusement park on the
seaboard, things people could do in crowds, people who
were strong and alive and lusty, people who had always
been depicted on the stage as thin-lipped puritans—a
libel I was anxious to refute….As for the two leading
characters, Julie with her courage and inner strength and
outward simplicity seemed more indigenous to Maine
than to Budapest. Liliom is, of course, an international
character, indigenous to nowhere.”
Carousel
opened at the Majestic Theater on West 44th
Street on April 19, 1945, almost exactly two years after
Oklahoma!
, which was still playing across the street at the
St. James.
Carousel
ran for 890 performances, more than
two years straight. It then went on the road for two years,
visiting 20 states and two Canadian cities. It traveled
15,000 miles and was seen by nearly two million people.
There have since been numerous revivals in America and
in London. In 1956 the film version appeared, starring
Gordon MacRae and Shirley Jones, and an abridged,
made-for-television version aired in 1967.
‘new heights of creativity’
David Ewen wrote of Rodgers’ accomplishment in
The
New Complete Book of the American Musical Theater
:
Carousel
represented new heights of creativity. [Rodgers’]
musical writing acquired breadth and spaciousness—for
example, the symphonic waltz prelude played under the
opening scene, which has since become such a favorite of
‘pop’ and summer concerts, or the extended ‘Soliloquy,’
in which the usual musical comedy song…is expanded
into a seven-minute musical episode, made up of eight
different musical fragments. Now for the first time
Rodgers begins to make the orchestra a commentator
on what is occurring on the stage, to produce extended
musical sequences and interludes, at time played under
the dialogue, at times connecting one scene to the next
one. In addition, a new dramatic expressiveness and a
new spirituality begin to penetrate some of his musical
thinking, as in ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone,’ while at
other times he proves capable of endowing some of his
melodies with an encompassing humanity and tenderness
not often encountered before this in his music (as in
‘When the Children Are Asleep’ or when, in ‘Soliloquy,’
Billy thinks about the possibility of having a daughter).
In short, in
Carousel
, Rodgers is no longer merely a writer
of wonderful melodies. He has finally become a musical
dramatist.”
Late in life, Rodgers admitted that
Carousel
was
the favorite of his shows. “Oscar never wrote more
meaningful or more moving lyrics,” he said, “and to me,
my score is more satisfying that any I’ve ever written. It
affects me deeply every time I see it performed.” One can
understand this sentiment perfectly when the air resounds
with the swirling, infectious strains of the “Carousel
Waltz,” the elegant love duet “If I Loved You” for Billy and
Julie, or the joyous “June is Bustin’ Out All Over.”
Time
magazine named
Carousel
the best musical of the 20th
century. After hearing today’s performance, perhaps
you’ll agree.
Instrumentation:
vocal soloists and mixed chorus with
orchestra comprising 2 flutes (both doubling piccolo),
oboe (doubling English horn), 2 clarinets, bassoon,
3 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani,
drum set, bells, cymbals, low bells, military snare
drum, tambourine, triangle, vibraphone, wood blocks,
xylophone, harp, piano and strings
Program note by
Robert Markow
.
Jan Clayton and John Raitt as Julie and Billy in the
original Broadway production of Carousel, 1945.
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