“Do we not all deserve a second chance? Are we to be condemned out of hand and not understood? … Rather than having a knee-jerk reaction and saying someone is worthless and doesn’t mean anything and isn’t an integral part of this community or society, there are organizations out there saying we need to take a step back and look at the issue: what’s causing this to happen?”
That’s Director Mary-Ellen Perley speaking about the upcoming production of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein’s Carousel, produced by Foote in the Door Productions at La Cité Francophone June 16 – 24.
The particular issue she’s talking about is a man who doesn’t know how to deal with his anger and physically harms his loved ones. His community rejects him, and yet his wife tries to understand him and his behaviour. In Carousel, Billy Bigelow (a carousel barker) and Julie Jordan (a millworker) fall in love. While Billy attempts to provide for his family through illegal means, he lashes out at his wife with physical violence. Years later, he is given a second chance to make things right.
Mary-Ellen Perley describes Carousel as being about “Two very interesting, independent people, who come together and fall in love with each other and have to deal with their own very different approaches to the love they share for each other but can never articulate because they can’t say it to each other… Julie loves Billy. And she sees something in him that makes her love him. It might be buried deep, but she sees it. So, we must also accept the fact that Julie, who is not stupid, sees the good in Billy and wants to bring that good out. She sees something in him, and that touches him deeply. She also sees the hurt and his feeling of not being accepted, of being frustrated with the way he’s been treated and we only get glimpses of this – some don’t come until almost the end of the play. So, that’s the moment when we as the audience have to make sure we’re not being too quick to judge.”
Written in 1945, Mary-Ellen and Assistant Director Rhiannon Perley-Waugh, say that Carousel changed the musical theatre genre in a big way. First, that the themes and ideas dealt with in Carousel are more serious and authentic than other musicals of the time. Second, Rhiannon says the lyrics are more dialogue than lyrics. “They wrote a play and add songs to make it a musical in a lot of ways… The lyrics of the songs themselves have more dialogue than song. There’s a lot of weight in them, they’re not light and fluffy. You look at the closing song of the musical, ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’, and you listen to every word in that song and there’s so much meaning in every part of it…. They’re monologues put to music.
Mary-Ellen and Rhiannon say audiences who come in with an open mind to experience both Billy and Julie’s sides of the story will experience the intricacies of a complex relationship. Mary-Ellen says, “There is the theme of unconditional, forgiving love… One wants to say we can make this work. It stems from loving someone deeply and wanting so badly to have things work out. From recognizing their flaws and understanding where they might come from.”
Rhiannon adds, “The play doesn’t shy away from the fact that Billy did hit his wife. There is a very poignant scene in which he is basically brought to terms with that by one of the other characters. Cards are laid on the table and he is told he hasn’t done enough good in this world to get into heaven, even though the back door. That’s an important moment in the play because it is the truth being laid out there, not being shied away from or turned a blind eye to. That he is being faced with the reality of his violence and how it isn’t appropriate and he needs to fix it if there’s going to be any moving on for him, for his community, for his wife and most importantly for his daughter, who is the future.”
As part of the run of Carousel, Foote in the Door Productions is partnering with WIN House, a local shelter for women and their children escaping domestic abuse. Donations will be collected for WIN House throughout the run and Thursday, June 22 is WIN House night, featuring a pre-show talk with WIN House, and $2 from each ticket sold for the June 22 performance will be donated to WIN House.