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Carousel is a musical by Richard Rodgers (music) and Oscar Hammerstein II (book and lyrics) that was adapted from Ferenc Molnar's 1909 play Liliom, transplanting the Budapestmarker setting of Molnar's play to a New Englandmarker fishing village. The show includes the hit musical numbers If I Loved You, June Is Bustin' Out All Over, and You'll Never Walk Alone. Carousel was innovative for its time, being one of the first musicals to contain a tragic plot.

The original production opened on Broadwaymarker on April 19, 1945, and ran for 890 performances. The musical has enjoyed award-winning revivals (particularly the 1994 revival at the Vivian Beaumont Theatremarker) and has been adapted as a Cinemascope 55 film in 1956 and as a made-for-television special on videotape in 1967. It is particularly well-regarded among musicals by the theatre community, and Richard Rodgers, in his autobiography Musical Stages, said it was his favorite musical. Time magazine named it the best musical of the 20th century.


Theresa Helburn and Lawrence Langner of the Theatre Guild, producers of the blockbuster musical Oklahoma!, proposed to Rodgers and Hammerstein that they turn Molnar's Liliom into a musical. At first reluctant -- they felt that audiences might be put off by the original setting (Hungary), the dark story, and a criminal anti-hero leading character who kills himself -- they agreed to take on the project. Moving the setting to the New Englandmarker coast was the key.

Both Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II said Carousel was their favorite collaboration. They broke new ground in musical theater storytelling with their extended music-and-dialog scenes, such as the "bench scene", which features "If I Loved You", and the haunting "Soliloquy" in which Billy imagines his future child. These scenes, especially the former, treat singing like spoken dialog set to music (much as in opera recitative, with the "recitative" singing leading up to the actual song). The final anthem "You'll Never Walk Alone" has assumed a life of its own as a funeral and graduation standard. It is also customarily sung by supporters of several association football (soccer) clubs, beginning with Liverpool F.C. in the 1960s. Since 1964 Jerry Lewis had ended the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon with an emotional rendition of You'll Never Walk Alone.

In 1999, Time magazine in its "Best of the Century" list, named Carousel the Best Musical of the 20th century, writing that Rodgers and Hammerstein "set the standards for the 20th century musical". Ironically, in a highly critical review of the 1956 film version Time, in its March 19, 1956 issue, had also been critical of the stage musical. The anonymous Time critic who reviewed the 1956 film version of the show had referred to the plotline as "goo".

Plot synopsis

Act I

Two young female millworkers in freshly industrialized 1870s New England visit the town's carousel after work. One of them — demure Julie Jordan — shares a lingering glance and is flirted with by the carousel's barker, Billy Bigelow (instrumental piece: "Carousel Waltz").

Mrs. Mullin, owner of the carousel, arrives and tells Julie never to return to the carousel because Julie let Billy put his arm around her during the ride. Julie's friend, Carrie Pipperidge, and Julie argue with Mrs. Mullin. Billy arrives and initially sides with Mrs. Mullin (who flirts with him outrageously) until he realizes that Mrs. Mullin is just jealous of Julie, at which point he switches sides and is fired from his job. Carrie presses Julie for information about the carousel ride with Billy, but Julie is reticent about the encounter ("You're a Queer One, Julie Jordan"). Eventually satisfied, Carrie confides that she has a beau of her own: local fisherman Enoch Snow ("Mister Snow").Billy returns and makes it clear that only Julie should stay with him. Carrie leaves after revealing that, if they stay out, they will lose their jobs at the mill. Mr. Bascombe, owner of the mill, and a policeman appear and warn Julie that Billy has taken money from other women. Bascombe offers to take Julie home so she can keep her job, but she refuses and gets fired, too. She and Billy, now alone, can talk freely (in a scene that is performed partly as recitative), but neither can quite confess the growing attraction they feel for each other ("If I Loved You").

A month passes. At a spa owned by Julie's cousin, Nettie Fowler, sailors appear with clams for the evening's clambake. They are noisy, which spurs Carrie and the other female townfolk to jeer at them (this section is sung as a sort of recitative, rather than spoken). Nettie arrives and, spotting the sexual tension, leads them all in celebrating love and spring. An elaborate dance ensues ("June Is Bustin' Out All Over"). The men leave as Julie, now married to Billy, arrives. (He and his whaler friend Jigger have been missing all night.) Nettie tells Carrie to comfort Julie.

To divert the other girls from their eavesdropping, Nettie then unsuccessfully encourages the girls to clean up. Julie confides in Carrie that Billy, now unemployed and living with Julie at Nettie's, is unhappy over the loss of his job and, out of frustration, has slapped Julie. Carrie also has happier news — she and Enoch are to be married. At this, the girls who have so far been feigning work, rush over, congratulate Carrie, and imagine the wedding day (reprise: "Mister Snow"). Enoch has arrived and startles the girls by joining them in song. The girls leave Julie, Carrie, and Enoch alone.

Carrie tries to converse with Julie and Enoch, but Julie's unhappiness overcomes her: she bursts into tears in Enoch's arms. As she pulls herself together, Billy arrives with Jigger. He is openly rude to Enoch and then Julie, and he soon leaves along with Jigger, followed by a distraught Julie. Left alone, Carrie and Enoch extol the virtues of a life plan. Enoch reveals how he expects both to become rich selling herring and to have a large family with Carrie ("When The Children Are Asleep").

Meanwhile, Billy, Jigger, and other whalers sing of life on the sea ("Blow High, Blow Low"). The singing segues into a dance, with the local girls flirting with the whalers. Jigger tries to recruit Billy to help with a robbery, but Billy declines when Jigger tells him that the victim - Julie's former boss Mr. Bascombe - might have to be killed. Mrs. Mullin arrives and tries to tempt Billy back to the carousel (and to her), and he reveals he is unhappy with Julie. Julie arrives. There is almost an argument, but Mrs. Mullin leaves to go to the bank. Julie tells Billy of her pregnancy and they go inside. Mrs. Mullin and Jigger return and spar until Billy comes back out and tells Mrs. Mullin to leave. Overwhelmed with happiness by the news, and determined to provide financially for his future child, Billy decides to be Jigger's accomplice after all ("Soliloquy").

Act 1 ends with the whole town leaving for the clambake. Billy, who previously shunned the idea of going to the clambake, now realizes it is integral to his and Jigger's alibi: he decides to go too. Julie is delighted.

Act II

The act begins with the town reminiscing about the huge meal that they have just eaten ("This Was a Real Nice Clambake"). As everyone leaves to help clear up before the treasure hunt, Jigger tries to seduce Carrie. Unfortunately, Enoch walks in while Carrie is in a compromising position. He declares that he is finished with her ("Geraniums In The Winder"), as Jigger jeers ("Stonecutters Cut It On Stone"). The girls try to comfort Carrie, saying all men are bad. When Carrie turns to Julie for comfort, she reflects simply that all that matters is that "he's your feller and you love him" ("What's The Use Of Wondrin'?"). Then Julie sees Billy trying to sneak away with Jigger and, while trying to stop him, feels the knife hidden in his shirt. She begs him to give it to her, but he refuses and leaves to commit the robbery. Julie realizes that Billy is about to do something that may get him into trouble.

Jigger and Billy gamble, using cards. At stake are their shares of the anticipated robbery spoils. Billy loses his share of the expected proceeds: his participation is now pointless. Unbeknownst to Billy and Jigger, Mr. Bascombe, the intended robbery victim, has already deposited the money he was expected to be carrying. He instead carries a gun. The robbery fails: Bascombe pulls his gun and starts shooting. Jigger escapes unharmed, but the police corner Billy. Billy stabs himself with his knife and dies; Julie arrives just in time for him to say his last words to her.

Carrie tells Julie that Billy's death is not necessarily a bad thing. Enoch gets back together with Carrie and supports this view. Mrs. Mullin arrives, much to the disgust of the townfolk, but Julie lets her view the body. Mrs. Mullin does so, then runs off weeping. Everyone leaves except Julie. Nettie arrives on the scene and comforts her ("You'll Never Walk Alone").

Billy arrives at heaven's gate. There, a pair of blunt-spoken angels explain that, to enter, he must alleviate the distress he caused. Billy refuses to see a simple magistrate in Heaven: he demands to be taken directly to God to be judged ("The Highest Judge Of All"). The Starkeeper sends him back to earth. Stealing a star on the way down, he returns fifteen years after his suicide. His daughter, Louise, is now an angry and rebellious teen, mocked by Mr. Snow's snobbish and wealthy children because her father was a thief (instrumental: "Louise's Ballet").

Enoch and his children stop by Julie's house to pick up Carrie on the way to the graduation, and Enoch's son (Enoch Jr.) waits behind to talk to Louise. Louise reveals that she plans to run away from home with a carnival troupe she met, but when Enoch Jr. proposes, she decides to stay. He reveals, however, that his father would not think Louise an appropriate match. Insulted, Louise orders him to leave and bursts into tears.

Billy, able to make himself visible or invisible at will, reveals himself to Louise; he pretends to be a friend of her father. Trying to cheer her up, he offers her a small gift — the star he stole from Heaven. She refuses it and, frustrated, he slaps her. As he makes himself invisible, Louise tells Julie what has happened. She reveals that the slap miraculously felt like a kiss, not a blow. Without allowing her to actually see him, Billy finally confesses his love to Julie (reprise: "If I Loved You"). Having thus made amends, he invisibly attends Louise's high-school graduation. The whole town shuns her and refuses to applaud her. Dr. Seldon, who strangely resembles the Starkeeper, tells the graduating class not to rely on their parents' success (advice directed at Enoch Jr.) or be held back by their parents' mistakes (directed at Louise). Seldon then leads everyone in a final chorus (reprise: "You'll Never Walk Alone"). Billy, still invisible, whispers to Louise, telling her to have confidence in herself. His silent words enter her mind and, inspired, she – along with Julie – joins the singing. This good deed redeems Billy, who wins entry into Heaven.

Note: The graduation scene is a complete departure from Molnar's Liliom, in which Liliom is presumably condemned to Hell after slapping his daughter (even though, in Molnar's play, the slap also feels like a kiss).

Production history

Original Broadway
The original production, directed by Rouben Mamoulian with choreography by Agnes de Mille, opened at Broadwaymarker's Majestic Theatremarker on April 19, 1945, and closed on May 24, 1947, after 890 performances. The original cast included John Raitt (Billy), Jan Clayton (Julie), Jean Darling (Carrie), Eric Mattson (Mr. Snow), Christine Johnson (Nettie), Murvyn Vye (Jigger), Bambi Linn (Louise), Jean Casto (Mrs. Mullin) and Russell Collins (the Starkeeper and Dr. Seldon). A two-year national tour and 1949 Broadway revival followed.

Original West End
Carousel premiered at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lanemarker in June 1950, soon after Oklahoma! closed, for a run of over a year and a half.

1957 New York revival
The 1957 revival opened at New York City Center on September 11, 1957 and ran for 24 performances. The New York City Center Light Opera Company produced this revival. John Fearnley and Robert Pageant directed, and Agnes de Mille handled the choreography. The cast featured Barbara Cook (Julie Jordan), Howard Keel (Billy Bigelow), Pat Stanley (Carrie Pipperidge), Russell Nype (Mr. Snow), James Mitchell (Jigger), and Daniel Reed (Starkeeper).

1965 Lincoln Center revival
In 1965, the Music Theater of Lincoln Centermarker produced Carousel. John Raitt re-created the role of Billy Bigelow. The Starkeeper and Dr. Seldon were played by Edward Everett Horton in his final stage appearance.

London's Royal National Theatre 1992 revival
The Royal National Theatremarker (RNT) revival, directed by Nicholas Hytner and choreographed by Sir Kenneth MacMillan, opened on December 10, 1992. It played for sixteen weeks in the Lyttelton Theatremarker then transferred in September 1993 to the Shaftesbury Theatremarker where it ran until March 1994. The production starred Joanna Riding as Julie Jordan, Patricia Routledge as Nettie, Michael Hayden as Billy Bigelow, and Katrina Murphy as Carrie. Riding won the Olivier Award, Best Actress in a Musical, and Hayden was nominated for an Olivier Award.

1994 Broadway revival
The 1994 revival, a joint production of The Royal National Theatremarker and Lincoln Center Theater, opened at the Vivian Beaumont Theatremarker on March 24, 1994. It ran for 337 performances plus 38 previews. The production was a transfer of the 1992 RNT production of Carousel. After the London run, an interracial production was directed by Hytner, with choreography by MacMillan. It featured Sally Murphy as Julie Jordan, Audra McDonald as Carrie Pipperidge, Shirley Verrett as Nettie and Hayden, again, as Billy Bigelow. The revival won five Tony Awards, including Best Revival of a Musical, best direction, best choreography. It received eight Drama Desk Award nominations, winning five. McDonald, in her first Broadway role, won the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical. McDonald and Hayden received the Theatre World Award. A Japanesemarker tour followed.

1996/1997 U.S. national tour
The London/Broadway production, directed by Hytner, choreographed by MacMillan, and produced by the Royal National Theatremarker, toured the U.S. for fifteen months. This was the first national exposure for Patrick Wilson, who played Billy Bigelow. Other cast members who eventually went on to Broadway and film careers include Sarah Uriarte Berry, Jennifer Laura Thompson and Brett Rickaby.

2002 New York Concert
On June 6, 2002, Hugh Jackman as Billy Bigelow and Audra McDonald as Julie Jordan appeared in a special concert performance of Carousel at Carnegie Hallmarker in New Yorkmarker.

2008 West End revival
After a Bromleymarker tryout from 26 September 2008, arevival of Carousel opened at the Savoy Theatremarker on December 2, 2008, starring Jeremiah James as Billy Bigelow, Alexandra Silber as Julie Jordan, and Lesley Garrett as Nettie Fowler. The director is Lindsay Posner, with choreography by Adam Cooper. Initial reviews were fair to positive but the production closed early. Garrett and other cast members can be seen in the interval act of Eurovision Dance Contest 2008 where they perform medley of "June Is Busting Out All Over" and "You'll Never Walk Alone".

Cast albums
The original 1945 production, the 1965 Lincoln Center production, and the 1992 and 1994 productions all received original cast albums. The 1957 revival did not.

Themes and issues

Carousel was an opportunity for Oscar Hammerstein II to explore societal attitudes and prejudices in a musical play. The main social themes are spousal abuse, social class, hypocrisy and conduct. Julie and Billy are working class; Enoch and (ultimately) Carrie are middle class. The second act illuminates differences between these two families. South Pacific would go on to return to social themes by highlighting and attacking racial prejudice.

Domestic violence is another significant and controversial theme in the play. Billy's physical abuse of Julie is condemned by some of the characters, but endured by Julie herself, because she loves him and understands his emotional pain.

Musical numbers

Act I
  • "The Carousel Waltz"
  • "You're a Queer One, Julie Jordan" (omitted from the 1956 film, but included on the film's soundtrack album)
  • "Mister Snow"
  • "If I Loved You"
  • "June Is Bustin' Out All Over"
  • "June Is Bustin' Out All Over Dance Sequence"
  • "Mister Snow (reprise)" (omitted from the 1956 film)
  • "When the Children Are Asleep" (moved to just before "A Real Nice Clambake" in the 1956 film)
  • "Blow High, Blow Low" (omitted from the 1956 film, but included on the film's soundtrack album)
  • "Soliloquy"
  • "Act I Finale" (omitted from the 1956 film) (reprise of "June Is Bustin' Out All Over")

Act II
  • "Entr'acte" (omitted from the 1956 film)
  • "A Real Nice Clambake"
  • "Geraniums in the Winder" (omitted from the 1956 film)
  • "Stonecutters Cut It On Stone"
  • "What's the Use of Wond'rin'?"
  • "You'll Never Walk Alone"
  • "The Highest Judge of All" (omitted from the 1956 film)
  • "Louise's Ballet"
  • "If I Loved You (reprise)"
  • "Finale Ultimo: You'll Never Walk Alone (reprise)"
  • "Exit Music" (omitted from the 1956 film)

Film versions

A film version of the musical was made in 1956, starring Gordon MacRae and Shirley Jones. There was also a 1967 network television version. There are plans for a remake starring Hugh Jackman, with Anne Hathaway on the "wish list".


  1. R&H Theatricals website
  2. Liverpool signature tune
  3. "Liverpool or Celtic: who Walked Alone first?" The Guardian, March 12, 2003
  4. Time magazine, December 31, 1999
  5. "Facing the Music,"Time magazine, March 19, 1956
  6. 1950, accessed December 2, 2008
  7. This is Theatre listing for 1992 London revival
  8. 1993 Official London Theatre listing
  9. The New York Times, March 31, 1994, Bruce Weber, Section C;Page 11
  10. Gans, Andrew and Simonson, Robert. "Hugh Jackman and Audra McDonald Ride the Carnegie Hall Carousel June 6",, June 6, 2002
  11. Coveney, Michael. "Carousel, Savoy Theatre, London", The Independent, 4 December 2008
  12. de Jong, Nicholas. "Take an enchanting turn on a vivid and poignant Carousel", Evening Standard, 3 December 2008
  13. Eurovision Dance Contest info page
  14. 1945 cast album (selections) at
  15. 1965 cast album at
  16. 1993 London cast album at
  17. 1994 Broadway revival cast album at
  18. Talkin' Broadway Regional News & Reviews - Washington, D.C. - Carousel - 11/25/04
  19. The song "Such a Merry Party", from the 1959 musical Little Mary Sunshine, parodies "A Real Nice Clambake."
  20. Hetrick, Adam. Jackman Pursues Carousel Film Remake and Houdini for, May 9, 2009

External links

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