The cast of “Carousel” filled the stage as the audience watched the opening performance Friday, Feb. 15 at Liberty University’s Tower Theater. The play takes place in a small seaside town in New England and follows the love story between carnival barker Billy Bigelow, played by Joel Ledbetter, and local factory worker Julie Jordan, played by sophomore worship major Heather Reed.
“I hope this show really ministers to people,” Reed said. “There are some serious undertones, but I hope that people take hope, faith and courage with them as they leave the show.”
Although the Liberty Department of Theatre Arts did not recommend “Carousel” to children under 12 years old due to “subtle adult themes,” the cast chose to highlight the positive overall message of the play.
“The production is really a broken love story about redemption and hope,” Camryn Stahlman-Dwyer, who plays the character of Billy and Julie’s daughter, said. “A young girl falls in love with a rough and rugged carousel man. A few months into their marriage, he’s been beating her, and she tells him she’s having a baby. So, in hearing the news, he joins with his friend to rob for money and ends up getting caught and (killing) himself instead of going to jail. He goes to heaven and is given a chance to help his daughter, who is now 15.”
According to Nelson, the original story written by Rodgers and Hammerstein is considered to be one of the best musicals of the 20th century.
“The literature of the writing is wonderful,” Director Christopher Nelson said. “It is real, and it is hypnotizing, with a 15-minute inclusion of ballet.”
The show includes popular melodies such as “If I Loved You,” “June is Bustin’ Out All Over” and “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”
“At the end of the day, love is spoken and love is realized, but not in the way most people would expect,” Nelson said.
According to Nelson, this is by far his favorite production.
“Ultimately, the script got me,” Nelson said. “Every time I watch it, I am affected by the journey of Billy and Julie. This is the most powerful script I have ever worked with. This has challenged me to challenge my cast to rise to the occasion.”
The play will continue Thursday, Feb. 21 and Friday at 7:30 p.m. and will finish with two showings Saturday at 2:30 and 7:30 p.m.