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Sierra Repertory Theatre pulls off Carousel a fun musical in Columbia
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Rogers & Hammerstein would be happy to see the way Sierra Repertory Theatre has delivered one of their most celebrated musicals ever - Carousel.

The first-ever production of Carousel by SRT opened Friday evening at the Fallon House Theatre in Columbia and was a thoroughly enjoyable experience for, unfortunately, a very sparse crowd. Considering the quality of the production, it's a shame the house was about 40 percent of capacity on opening night. The good news is anyone can treat themselves to this scrumptious musical until Aug. 19.

Chances are you may have seen the 1956 screen version of Carousel starring Shirley Jones and Gordon MacRae. In Columbia Samantha Bruce plays lead role Julie Jordan and Los Angeles artist Marc Ginsburg as Billy Bigalow. Both professional performers have Broadway-caliber voices to send chills down your backside in such beautiful ballads as "If I Loved You," and "You'll Never Walk Alone." Both flawlessly delivered their lines for convincing characters.

From the opening moment, the show is filled with memorable melodies and lyrics that have become standards for generations. It is hard to exit the theater not singing the spirited number "June is Bustin' Out All Over."

Audiences will certainly appreciate the music, but also get lost in the ill-fated love story between Jordan and Bigalow. The story takes place in a small, hard-working town on the New England seaside, where shy, young Jordan falls for a brash, charismatic carnival barker Bigelow. While they truly love each other, their relationship is difficult from the start -and gets more complicated when Julie finds out she is pregnant. Bruce is both beautiful and charming to watch on stage. Ginsburg is confident as the vulnerable braggart Bigalow.

Supporting actress Jessica Reiner-Harris, who plays Julie's best friend, Carrie Pipperidge, delivers one of the most fun characters as she dispenses the funniest lines in a very natural way. Mr. Enoch Snow, her future nerdy fisherman husband, played by New York newcomer Yaniv Zarif, also prompts grins.

The stellar performances of the leads often makes some of the local actors in the musical seem clumsy in delivery but the production is so pleasant the audience seems forgiving.

The backdrop of the sea on the sea is near breath-taking with special lighting making the ocean look almost shimmering and the carnival scene is bright and festive. The sets are visually stellar but an initial distraction are the microphones that are floating above the foreheads of some supporting players.

Over all, the play is delightful theatre and gets high marks. I'd see it again.

Thursday and Friday evening performances begin at 7, Saturday evening shows begin at 8 and Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday matinees begin at 2. Tickets are from $26 to $32 depending on the day of the performance, with discounts for children, students and seniors.

For information or reservations, call SRT's box office at (209) 532-3120 or visit Sierra Rep's website at

This show has mature themes appropriate for audiences of age 12 and up.