Jackie Grigg as Julie and Joel Crowley as Billy in “Carousel” at Good Theater. Photos by Steve Underwood

A late fall chill may be knocking at the door, but the performers currently populating the stage at Good Theater are trying hard to make you believe that “June is Bustin’ Out All Over.”

The venerable Munjoy Hill theater has opened a thoroughly entertaining production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classic 1945 musical “Carousel.” Fine acting, singing, dancing and piano playing by local talents, many new to this Portland venue, will undoubtedly serve to characterize this show as one of the best when the 2022-23 local theater season is finally summed up.

Director Brian P. Allen has invested a lot of thought and resources into bringing this show, with a cast of 17 plus two musicians and an expanded staff, to life. If the relatively small stage, usually harboring more modest productions, may seem just a bit crowded, the vibe is pure joy from all involved.

The plot, subject to several broad interpretations over the years, concerns a troubled romance between hopelessly enamored factory girl Julie and rough-edged carnival barker Billy in a small community on the Maine coast. Class and cultural divisions suggest they must part, but there’s something, perhaps within the music heard from a distant carousel, that allows them to dream of a life together.

The show hits a high point early with successive takes by Julie (Jackie Grigg) and Billy (Joel Crowley) on the transcendently beautiful “If I Loved You.” Backed by the twin pianos of Victoria Stubbs and Miriam Schwanauer at the rear of the stage, Grigg’s feathery soprano and Crowley’s resonant tenor provide a strong case, if one still needed to be made, for the brilliance of the composers of this moving piece.

Crowley also makes Billy’s “Soliloquy” a touching revelation.
Unfortunately, Billy’s unruly temper and poor judgement, along with the admonitions of the local townsfolk, tragically undermine the couple, who have a big lug and tough little lady chemistry in the hands of Grigg and Crowley. Billy and Julie’s dreams of moving away to a better place with their soon-arriving baby daughter in tow are dashed.


Shannon Thurston, center, as Nettie and the cast of “Carousel” at Good Theater.

Along the way to a tough conclusion, Julie’s spunky friend Carrie, played by a fine voiced Abbey Hutchins, who also knows how to work a laugh (“Mr. Snow”), and the earthy Nettie, played by local favorite Shannon Thurston (“A Real Nice Clambake”) have their centerstage moments. Thurston duets ever so touchingly with Grigg on the unsparingly hopeful “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” The ensemble earlier joins Thurston and Hutchins on the aforementioned “June is Bustin’ Out All Over” in a gloriously spirited celebration.

Joseph Hitchcock’s Enoch adds a nerdy flair (“Geraniums in the Winder”) and Colin Whiteman’s Jigger a dangerous spirit (“Stonecutters Cut It on Stone”). Jen Means, Glenn Anderson, David Bass Clark, Derek Kingsley, Todd Daley, Rachel Lotstein, John Furey, Molly Frantzen and Aleah Sebrey round out the cast, each presenting slices of individual characterization to keep the show lively over its two hours and 25 minutes (including intermission).

A flowing passage, choreographed by Portland Ballet’s Nell Shipman and danced by that company’s Lydia Wirth with an assist from Eugene Mesheryakov, introduces Billy to his grownup daughter Louise. Additional choreography, of a folksier nature, is provided by Betsy Melarkey Dunphy.

The set by Steve Underwood creates a roughhewn dockside ambiance. The costumes by Michelle Handley and lighting by Iain Odlin help to establish the allure of this classic show from Good Theater.

Steve Feeney is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.

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