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October 11, 2013

OU musical brings controversy, life lessons

NORMAN — Hope and redemption don’t come without a cost in the University of Oklahoma Weitzenhoffer School of Musical Theatre’s production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Carousel,” coming in early November.

Only Rodgers and Hammerstein’s second musical after “Oklahoma!,” “Carousel” brings both dark undertones and beautiful, classic music to the stage, said director Shawn Churchman.

“For people that know musical theater, the show itself is rather controversial because it is considered a classic in music theater yet it is about a man that abuses his wife,” Churchman said.

“Rodgers and Hammerstein don’t make a hero out of this man and they never ask you to forgive him, but it is a story about how a person can redeem themselves and seek redemption. Our goal in this show is to humanize this story for the audience, to understand that people aren’t just black and white. They don’t have to forgive him — there’s even a line about this in the show — but it does make it all right to understand and to empathize with someone’s plight.”

Set in a Maine coastal village toward the end of the 19th century, the story follows the romance between swaggering, carefree carnival barker, Billy Bigelow, and the naive millworker, Julie Jordan. After the two marry, Billy loses his job and learns Julie is pregnant. In desperation, Billy turns to crime to provide for his growing family. Billy, caught in the act and certain to face prison, kills himself.

Fifteen years later, Billy is allowed to return to earth for one day and encounters the daughter he never knew. Billy finds his daughter is a lonely, friendless teenager, haunted by her father’s reputation. Out of love, Billy then sets about instilling a sense of hope and dignity for his child and her mother.

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