Liberty University’s Department of Theatre Arts welcomes for the first time Rodgers and Hammerstein’s production “Carousel” to the Tower Theater stage Friday, Feb. 15.
“‘Carousel’ is considered by many to be the greatest musical of the 20th century,” said director Christopher Nelson, assistant professor of theatre arts. “The literature of the writing is wonderful. It is real, and it is hypnotizing, with a 15-minute inclusion of ballet.”
Set in a New England community during the 1870s, “Carousel” follows the tumultuous relationship of Billy Bigelow and Julie Jordan — a pair, who in retrospect, do not belong together but nonetheless fall deeply in love through a course of events. They experience adversities, such as unemployment and domestic abuse, but in spite of these, the pair eventually realizes forgiveness and that the time to say “I love you” to the people that matter to you is when you are alive.
Billy dies a tragic death, but is granted one more day with his family, grasping the opportunity to be the virtuous example he hoped to be to them.
“While ‘Carousel’ is heart-breaking and heart-wrenching, it is also filled with hope in many ways. At the end of the day, love is spoken and love is realized but not in the way most people would expect,” Nelson said.
During his time at Liberty, Nelson has directed 10 productions, but Carousel is one of his favorites.
“Ultimately, the script got me. Every time I watch it, I am affected by the journey of Billy and Julie,” said Nelson. “This is the most powerful script I have ever worked with. This has challenged me to challenge my cast to rise to the occasion.”
“Carousel” has a cast of 45 students. Heather Reed, a sophomore worship major, is making her debut on the Tower Theater stage in the role of Julie.
“I hope this show really ministers to people. There are some serious undertones, but I hope that people take hope, faith, and courage with them as they leave the show,” Reed said.
Junior Rachel Osterhus, who has appeared in “Oklahoma” and “Into the Woods,” plays the role of Carrie Pipperidge, Julie’s best friend.
“Carousel is such a powerful story full of real emotional struggles and issues that are hard to swallow. My desire is that my character will contribute to the hope that we want the audience to walk away with at the end of the night,” Osterhus said.
Nelson hopes the audience will apply the message of the play to their personal lives.
“Carousel is telling us to seize the moment God has given us now to speak good, to love, to do good, to reflect His light,” he said. “We know this as Christians and people — it is a human thing that we wake up the next morning and wish we had not done certain things. ‘Carousel’ says do not live with regrets because you do not have the opportunity to make it right once the music stops.”