Carousel Again Brings Broadway Close to Opera

Vanity Fair

Photo: Carousel director Jack O’Brien, stars Jessie Mueller and Renee Fleming, and choreographer Justin Peck, photographed at Jane’s Carousel, in Brooklyn. Photograph by Pari Dukovic. Styled by Madeline Weeks; Hair by Fernando Torrent; Makeup and grooming by Asami Matsuda; Manicure by Naoko Saita; Set design by Andrea Huelse; Produced on location bu Disco Meisch; For details, go to VF.com/Credits.

By Amy Fine Collins, Vanity Fair

Seventy-three years after its original debut, the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical returns to Broadway with Renée Fleming, Jessie Mueller, and Joshua Henry.

Certain that Richard Rodgers could never top the 1943 masterpiece Oklahoma!, Samuel Goldwyn advised the composer to shoot himself. But with 1945’s Carousel, Rodgers and librettist partner Oscar Hammerstein II surpassed even their own ambitious expectations. Rodgers later reflected that Carousel, his favorite show, “came very close to opera.”

Now, exactly 73 years after the musical’s debut, producers Scott Rudin and Roy Furman, with director Jack O’Brien, have revived the epic classic, opening on April 12 at Manhattan’s Imperial Theatre. And, making good on Rodgers’s lofty estimation of Carousel—the saga of the doomed love between Julie, a millworker, and Billy, a carnival barker—they have cast the revered lyric soprano Renée Fleming in the role of Julie’s cousin, Nettie. Of her maiden foray into Broadway musical theater, Fleming says, “It’s a luxury for me to be able to focus on one thing for such a long period of time.” Accustomed to projecting her voice “over the orchestra” and “in a foreign language,” she says, Fleming will instead perform with electronic amplification—and in a Maine accent. “I’ve had to rethink how I sing,” she notes. So affecting are Carousel’s celebrated tunes, they “give me goosebumps,” says Jessie Mueller, who plays Julie. “Rodgers and Hammerstein’s music is satisfying to sing,” she observes, “because it is so rich melodically.”

Among the many other enchantments of Carousel is its extended ballet sequence—“a huge moment, in terms of dance storytelling,” says choreographer Justin Peck. Collaborating on the production, Peck remarks, has been “super-exciting, inspiring, and intimidating—there is so much talent in the room!”