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Life / Entertainment / Theatre / Carousel
Guide to the London stage musical "Carousel"
  Main characters
  Story outline
  Rodgers and Hammerstein
  The film "Carousel"
  Further information


This page is a brief guide to the latest revival of the stage musical Carousel, which opened in London's West End in November 2008.
This show closed on 20 June 2009.

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Carousel is being performed at the Savoy Theatre from 22 November 2008. The address is Strand (next to the entrance to the Savoy Hotel), London WC2R 0ET (nearest Tube: Charing Cross; map)

The usual performances start times are as follows (you should arrive at the theatre about 30 minutes earlier):

2:30 (*)

(*) from 24 March 2009

The show lasts about 3 hours, including one 20-minute interval.

For a seating plan: click here

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Billy Bigelow: A carousel barker (attendant on a fairground ride) who is handsome and popular with ladies but has a bad side to his character
Julie Jordan: A young innocent girl who works at a cotton mill
Carrie Pipperidge: Julie's best friend, who is in love with Enoch Snow
Enoch Snow: A good-natured fisherman who is in love with Carrie

Mrs Mullin: The owner of the carousel, a widow who is attracted to Billy
David Bascombe: The rich owner of a cotton mill (some people call him by the nickname "Sideburns")
Nettie Jordan: Julie's cousin, who runs a spa
Jigger Craigin: Billy's criminal friend
Louise: Billy and Julie's daughter

Starkeeper: Administrator in heaven who allows Billy the chance to return to Earth for a day
Dr. Seldon: Local doctor and minister who gives a speech at Louise's high school graduation ceremony

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The story is set in a fishing town in Maine (part of the area known as New England, on the north-eastern coast of the USA, near Canada).

It is springtime in 1873. Julie and Billy meet at his carousel and they are attracted to each other, although they don't say that they love each other. Carrie, Julie's friend, tells her that she is in love with the fisherman Enoch and that they are engaged. Billy is sacked by the carousel owner Mrs Mullin because he flirted with his customer, and Julie loses her job at Mr Bascombe's cotton mill because she broke the rules by staying out late at night.

It is June. Billy has been unable to find another job, and he and Julie are being looked after by Nettie (Julie's cousin). Billy is feeling unhappy, and because he is frustrated he sometimes hits Julie. Billy's friend Jigger suggests that they could make money by robbing Mr Bascombe during the town's clambake festival, but Billy doesn't want to do this. Julie tells Billy that she is pregnant, making him think about his responsibility to make money to look after the child - he dreams of taking the family to San Francisco to start a better life there, so he decides to take part in Jigger's plan. The people of the town sail to an island for their clambake festival, catching lobsters and clams and cooking these on hot stones. After the feast the men take part in a treasure hunt. Jigger tricks Carrie into joining him in the woods, and when Enoch finds them he threatens to call off his engagement to Carrie. Jigger and Billy pretend to go off in search of the treasure, but actually go back to the mainland. They attack Mr Bascombe with knives, but he fights them off and calls the police. Billy can't face the idea of spending most of his life in prison and kills himself. Julie hears that Billy is hurt and rushes to be with him, but he dies before she has time to tell him that she loves him. Nettie encourages Julie to face up to her problems and continue living, and promises to help her and the baby.

15 years have passed. Billy is in heaven, where his job is to clean the stars. He learns from the angel known as the "Starkeeper" that he can return to Earth for one day, and secretly takes one star with him. He learns that Julie had a daughter called Louise, but that she is unhappy. People from the town are unkind to her because she is poor and her father was a thief. Carrie and Enoch are now married with 9 children and he is the successful owner of a fish factory, but he and the children look down on Louise and her mother. Billy can only be seen by others if he wants to be. Billy appears to his daughter and tells her that he knew her father. She becomes afraid of his strange behaviour when he gives him the star as a present, and he hits her. She calls her mother Julie from the house. Julie can sense that Billy is there and finds the star, realising that it is a sign that he loves her. It is Louise's school graduation day. Billy's last wish is to see his daughter's graduation before he must return to heaven. At the end of the ceremony a doctor (who looks strangely like the Starkeeper) gives a motivational speech to the students, telling them to make the most of their lives, whoever their parents were and no matter what other people think of them.

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If English is not your first language you may want to read the lyrics of the songs before you see the show. You can these at this website address:

A carousel is a fairground ride (also known as a merry-go-round).

A clambake is an American traditional festival. A hole is dug in the ground, the bottom is covered with large stones, and a fire is started on top. Fresh clams (a type of shellfish) and other food is cooked on the hot stones and shared among a group of friends.

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The songs were written by Rodgers and Hammerstein (Richard Rodgers thought that this was the best of their musicals).
The most famous of the songs is You'll Never Walk Alone. In Britain the group Gerry & The Pacemakers made this song a hit in 1963. It has been adopted as an anthem sung by football fans, especially by supporters of Liverpool Football Club.

Songs featured in the musical:

The Carousel Waltz
You're a Queer One, Julie Jordan
Mister Snow
If I Loved You
June Is Bustin' Out All Over
When the Children Are Asleep
Blow High, Blow Low
A Real Nice Clambake
Geraniums in the Window
Stonecutters Cut It On Stone
What's the Use of Wond'rin'?
You'll Never Walk Alone
The Highest Judge of All
You'll Never Walk Alone

When you walk through a storm
hold your head up high
And don't be afraid of the dark.
At the end of a storm is a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of a lark.
Walk on, through the wind,
Walk on, through the rain,
'Though your dreams be tossed and blown.
Walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart
And you'll never walk alone,
You'll never, ever walk alone.
Walk on, walk on with hope in your heart
And you'll never walk alone,
You'll never, ever walk alone.

Carousel [Soundtrack] (CD)
Artists: Original Cast Recording
Label: Flare
Date: January 2008
Carousel [Soundtrack] (CD)
Artists: 1993 London Cast Recording
Label: First Night
Date: June 1996

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Some American accents are used.
Age: Adults and teenagers will enjoy this production.
Music: There is music and dancing throughout the show.

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Richard Rodgers (the writer of the music) and Oscar Hammerstein II (author of most of the lyrics) were very successful American writers of musicals on Broadway. In 1943 they created Oklahoma!, followed by Carousel, South Pacific, The King and I and The Sound of Music. They also wrote for the film State Fair and for the TV production Cinderella.

Rodgers And Hammerstein Collection (6 DVDs)
[includes: Carousel, The King and I, Oklahoma!, The Sound of Music, South Pacific, State Fair]
Studio: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Date: February 2008

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Originally staged as a musical in 1945 and derived from the play Liliom, Carousel was turned into a film in 1956 with Gordon MacRae in the role of Billy and Shirley Jones as Julie.

Carousel: 2-disc (Special Edition) [1956] (DVD special edition)
Starring: Gordon MacRae, Shirley Jones
Studio: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Date: March 2006

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Official website for the musical:
Savoy Theatre:
Wikipedia article about Carousel:

Official tourist website for New England:

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British theatre: Life/Entertainment/Theatre
West End Live: Ideas/Album/West-End-Live

If you like Carousel you may also be interested in these musicals:
Les Miserables: Life/Entertainment/Theatre/Les-Miserables
Phantom of the Opera: Life/Entertainment/Theatre/Phantom-Of-The-Opera

Home page: Home

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