Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Happy 50th Birthday Carnival! - opened on Broadway on April 13, 1961

The musical Carnival! which was based on the 1953 film Lili, opened on Broadway fifty years ago today. 

Produced by David Merrick with a score by Bob Merrill and a book by Michael Stewart, Carnival tells the story of the teenage Lili, an orphan who comes to the carnival hoping to find a job.  There she encounters the various members of the carnival family including Paul, a crippled and bitter puppeteer who is mean to Lili and only able to display his true feelings for Lili through the various puppets he uses in his puppet show.

Lili is looking for a place to belong, where "everybody knows my name"  like the town she came from.  She thinks the carnival could be that place.  She tries various jobs in the carnival including working with Marco the magician, who she thinks she is in love with.  But Lili isn't that good at any of the jobs she tries. 

Lili is introduced to Paul's other puppets and finds a connection with them, and becomes part of the puppet show.  With her contributions to the act, singing and talking to the puppets, the act becomes the hit of the carnival.  Paul realizes that he is falling in love with Lili as well but doesn't know how to show his
feelings correctly.  Once he kisses her when she is helping him, Lili runs away as she doesn't feel the same way for him and she decides to leave the carnival when it is packing up and leaving it's current city.  But when one of the puppets appears and says that he is sad that she is leaving and that he has always loved her and that he needs her, Lili reveals Paul as the puppeteer and together, she and Paul join the carnival as it moves on to the next town.

 The show starred Anna Maria Alberghetti as Lili and Jerry Orbach, making his Broadway debut as Paul.  They are both great on the cast recording, but Orbach is truly amazing as he not only has to play the bitter Paul but the three puppets as well, and they all have different voices and personalities.   The cast also included Kaye Ballard as the assistant to the Marco.  The hit song "Love Makes the World Go Round" came out of the show.

The show ran for 719 performances. While I didn't see the original Broadway production, I did see the Paper Mill Playhouse production a few years ago.  The show has a magical opening that starts with an almost bare stage and a solo instrument being played that then explodes into the full orchestra with members of the carnival coming down the aisles, hawking the carnival to the audience, and by the end of the opening song a complete carnival atmosphere has been erected on the stage. 

Orbach with his puppets

I love the song "Her Face" which is the song that Paul sings when he realizes he is falling in love with Lili.   It is also used as a beautiful counter to Lili's song "I Hate Him" which she sings right after Paul kissed her.  Ballard has a couple of nice songs as well.   All in all a very enjoyable score.

While the show has never been revived on Broadway, the New York City Center Encores! series (a series of semi staged musicals) did present Carnival in 2002 with Anne Hathaway as Lili, Brian Stokes Mitchell as Paul and Douglas Sills as Marco.

Audio of "Love Makes the World Go Round" from the Cast recording plus the pop cover by Jane Morgan:

I couldn't find any other video with the original cast so, I have no clue who this guy is - but his name is Micah Spayer and he sings "Her Face" - my favorite song from the show - check him out...

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