Carousel – Studio Recording 1955
The scene is a New England coastal town – the year is 1873. Julie Jordan, a sweet, homespun local lass, falls under the spell of Billy Bigelow, a carnival barker. Against everyone’s advice, they are married. The improvident Billy, who has been anything but a gentle husband, learns that he is to become a father, a prospect that fills him with tremendous pride. He is determined to get money for his child and falls in with bad company. There is an attempted robbery and Billy, to avoid arrest, kills himself. After fifteen years in Purgatory, Billy is informed that he must redeem his soul before he is permitted to enter the Heavenly Gates. He is told that he may return to Earth for just twenty-four hours during which time he may redeem himself by performing one good deed. He is given a glimpse of his daughter, now fifteen years old and an unhappy youngster. En route to Earth, he steals a star for her, but when he confronts her, the awkward, inarticulate Billy fails to persuade the girl to accept his gift. Impatient and angry, he slaps her. Strangely, it doesn’t hurt her at all – Billy’s love is so pervasive that the slap feels like a kiss. His daughter’s unhappiness suddenly evaporates and Julie too is happy as she realizes that, in spite of everything he had said and done, Billy really loved her. How Carousel Began – by Richard Rodgers, © 1955 The usual procedure in putting a musical play together is for the author and composer to arrive at an idea, write some of it and then beg a producer to put it on. This procedure was reversed with Carousel in an interesting form. The Theatre Guild had produced Molnar’s Liliom many years before and felt that a musical version of this play would be the ideal project for Oscar and me, following Oklahoma! Theoretically we thought so, too, but practically we were frightened by the problems involved and doubtful that we could ever solve them. The Theatre Guild (known to us as Theresa Helburn and Lawrence Langner) were never an organization to give up, and they badgered us for something like six or seven months. We kept talking about the “tunnel” in the story through which we could see no light at the end. One night the four of us were sitting around looking for that little light when we hit upon the idea of Julie telling Billy that she is going to have a child. We thought this could be done musically and that Billy, as a result of his sudden coming of age, would decide to protect the baby even to the point of committing robbery. Dramatically this sent us streaking through the tunnel, and suddenly that speck of light appeared at the end. “If I Loved You” came along very soon, and the light grew larger. Bit by bit forms appeared in the light, and some of them danced and almost all of them sang. Rouben Mamoulian and Agnes de Mille saw to it that the forms supplemented each other and made each other rich in theatrical substance. The decision to make the “Carousel Waltz” the opening rather than have a conventional singing and dancing chorus also came, I think, from the light through the tunnel. This could no longer be a conventional musical comedy, so the piece had to have an unconventional start. Actually, there aren’t many songs in Carousel that subscribe to ordinary musical comedy pattern. Surely “You’ll Never Walk Alone” is quite far afield. It might be interesting to note that Carousel may be the only musical play ever to have its overture between the acts rather than at the beginning. This innovation gave the audience the opportunity of hearing the music without being disturbed by latecomers. In this album you, too, will not be disturbed by latecomers, and it is Oscar’s and my hope that you will enjoy the splendid artists who have made this new album as much as we enjoy them.
– Taken from the original liner notes for LPM-1048)
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Billy Bigelow, a carnival barker: Robert Merrill Julie Jordan, his wife: Patrice Munsel Carrie Pipperidge: Florence Henderson Nettie Fowler: Gloria Lane Enoch Snow: Herbert Banke Jigger Craigin: George Irving Lehman Engel, conductor