by Bradley Schlagheck
Seeing Carousel, although still in previews, was quite the dream the other night. Having been a part of the first developmental lab just a year ago, I was anxious to see how everything had come together. And there's nothing more inspiring than watching ten of your friends live their dreams and dance their tails off.
Last February, fellow dancers and I had to chance to listen to Jack O'Brien and Justin Peck talk about their concepts for this show, asking how do we approach the ideas and the look of scenes happening on Earth but also in Heaven? And how do we want the audience to feel about these life situations that occur when we realize we've passed over? Could it be possible that we are living in Heaven right now in our daily lives? Their aim was to perhaps blur those lines and, while using the human body, shapes, and movement, they could create something "other-worldly" and drive the story and the relationships forward in this new fantastical way.
We toyed with movement for hours and hours in the studio, setting scenes and dances, and it was amazing to see those ideas realized on the stage. The show opens with an entirely musical prologue, giving a peek into the fairground world, the people, and the infamous carousel. Led by the absolutely insane talents of Joshua Henry, Jessie Mueller, Renee Fleming, and Lindsay Mendez, this story of love and loss set in the summers of coastal Maine is a true classic. And it's always a plus watching shows with a giant dancing ensemble. It just can't be beat.
Justin Peck's choreography zips in and out of the story, weaving together moments of joy and absolute freedom, as well as tense and emotional ones. The vigor that Peck puts into his movement, with quick, short snappy movements, soaring turns and soft-shoe tapping, infuses this entire seaside community.
I have a special place in my heart for ballet, so getting to see more crossover success stories to Broadway is always particularly inspiring. New York City Ballet dancers Amar Ramasar and Brittany Pollack were a dream to watch, remembering the fun we had in the studio as they were immersed in this whole new world of Broadway. Brittany Pollack's Louise, and dream pas de deux with former Miami City Ballet dancer Andrei Chagas as the Fairground Boy, was filled with so much heart and excitement I could barely contain my whimper as Andrei abruptly left her alone on the beach.
I also want to mention An American in Paris alum, some making their Broadway debuts after the National Tour: Laura Feig, Ryan Steele, David Prottas, Leigh-Ann Esty, and Sam Strasfeld. Watching these dancers perform after working so closely with them truly makes this show special.
It's not an easy story to tell and perhaps an uncomfortable topic to approach, but the story that Carousel tells lends you a very human way to view life and death. I think everyone can relate to the relationships that are presented. The genius with which dance and the human form surround this work help create a world we can all relate to. No matter what world you may think that is, I wanna be a part of it. And dance til the stars fall down around me.
Bradley Schlagheck is a performer, most recently seen on Broadway in An American in Paris.