PHS Orchestra and Musical Theatre collaborate to perform Carousel

On Friday, October 24, PHS Orchestra, in collaboration with the Musical Theatre class, will present selections from the musical Carousel to fundraise for UNICEF. This musical, written by Oscar Hammerstein and Richard Rogers, will be the latest in a long line of charity performances put on by the orchestra—while on tour last February, its performance in Brussels, Belgium, was for charity. However, this is the first time that the orchestra will collaborate with the Musical Theatre class for the fundraiser concert.

The charity that the funds will be going to, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), is a nonprofit organization and a branch of the United Nations. It aims to improve the lives of children stricken by poverty, disease, or discrimination, and promote education and vaccination for all children, regardless of their condition.

The story follows protagonist Julie Jordan, a conventional 19th-century millworker in Maine whose life is turned upside down when she meets carousel barker Billy Bigelow. Julie attempts to come to terms with what she wants in life as she faces marriage, abuse, and other events. Amara Leonard ’15, who plays Carrie in one of the scenes, describes the show as the story of two friends and how their lives change as they find their way in love. “It’s about … trying to figure out what love and security mean to them.”

“It’s not just a musical—there’s also the orchestra. It’s their showcase, [and] they just asked us to collaborate,” said Patricia Wray, who teaches the Musical Theatre class.

photo: Severine Stier

photo: Severine Stier

This struggle unfolds through the souring of Julie and Billy’s relationship as they face the complications involved with confessing their love for one another. “Billy definitely love[s] Julie … He’s just afraid to say it,” said Joe Phelan ’17, who plays Billy in a few scenes. “He thinks that when you say you love someone, you come off as weak and vulnerable, and he [doesn’t] want to do that.”

Although the performance still follows the original plot, this adaptation of Carousel will be more of a concert than a complete musical. Some dialogue will be included to convey major points of the story, but there will be more focus on the music rather than the script. Therefore, sets and elaborate stage directions have been omitted for this performance, allowing the actors and orchestra to share the stage.

Another unique aspect of the performance is that each character will be portrayed by multiple actors, giving all Musical Theatre students the opportunity to learn lines and music and take on leading roles. “At the beginning of the year, what we’re normally doing is [giving] everybody [one] scene, and [giving] everybody a song,” said Wray, “so I wanted everybody to still have that experience.”

By collaborating with the orchestra, the Musical Theatre students, who normally work on Musical Theatre skills solely in class during the fall months, are able to gain a lot of new experience through working on a real show. “[The performance] is like the tree that falls down in the forest—nobody [usually] sees it because it’s in the Black Box. But now it’s going to be public,” said Wray, regarding the usual fall performances. “It throws [the students] immediately into the fire, so from my point of view, they’ll be much more ready when we start getting ready for our [spring] musical,” said Wray.

With sets and stage movement out of the way, the largest obstacle the performers face is piecing everything together. With 32 musical numbers in the performance, including well-known songs like “If I Loved You” and “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” the Carousel performers have had their hands full with scores to learn over the past several weeks.

Because of the large size of the orchestra, it is divided into two classes. Period four gets to practice daily with the Musical Theatre class, which also is fourth period; however, period seven will only get to practice twice with the actors before the performance. “The music isn’t hard—we just haven’t had that much time to practice it,” said George Zhu ’17, a pianist in the orchestra.

The purpose of the concert is not only to raise funds but also to provide members of both parties with a real-life performing experience. “[Carousel] is the meeting of minds of three things,” Leonard said, “which is raising awareness and money for charity, a performance for the Musical Theatre class, and an awesome collaboration with the orchestra.”

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