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Theatre / Carousel

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"Walk on through the wind, walk on through the rain,
Though your dreams be tossed and blown.
Walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart,
And you'll never walk alone!"

A 1945 musical adaptation of Hungarian playwright Ferenc Molnar's 1909 play Liliom, Carousel was Rodgers and Hammerstein's follow-up to their first smash, Oklahoma!. A film version was released in 1956, a year after the film version of Oklahoma! (and reuniting the latter's two leads).

Billy Bigelow is a carousel barker at a New England village, while Julie Jordan is a mill worker from the same town. They meet, kind of fall in love and get married. The two lose their jobs, which frustrates Billy to the point that he lets loose his violent tendencies on Julie. Despite this, she's still willing to love the guy; when she gets pregnant, Billy decides to participate with a chum named Jigger in robbing Julie's former boss. The plan goes awry, and a disgraced Billy takes his own life. Fifteen years later, Billy is given a chance by "The Highest Judge of All" to redeem himself by helping his family out.

A remake was planned with Hugh Jackman as Billy, but nothing came of it.

This story features examples of:

  • Adaptational Alternate Ending: Liliom originally ended on a downer with Liliom failing to help his daughter and going to hell once he strikes her. This was revised in Carousel so that Billy sticks around afterwards and succeeds in his mission. Molnar actually liked the newer ending.
  • Alliterative Name: Billy Bigelow and Julie Jordan.
  • All Musicals Are Adaptations: In this case of the Hungarian Play, and subsequent film adaptation, of Liliom.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Billy is able to get through to Louise, assuring her that her life will be better if she allows herself to trust others, gaining his place in heaven, leaving his wife and daughter in a better state of mind than before.
  • Break the Cutie: Well, the Fates attempted to break Julie, anyway. Find the love of your life, marry him, get caught in an abusive relationship, and then he dies, leaving you to raise your unborn child alone. Lesser characters would've definitely cracked under that strain.
  • Dark Reprise: "If I Loved You." First sung by the leads as they ponder a life together; Billy sings it as a ghost as he mourns his wasting his opportunity to spit out his feelings for Julie.
  • Disappeared Dad: Billy for Louise, though there is an explanation for this, and the audience gets to know what happened from Billy's point of view.
  • Domestic Abuse: It's rumored about but never shown that Billy beats Julie. However as Billy states, he only hit her one time, and based on his reaction, he despises himself for it.
  • Driven to Suicide: Billy, stabs himself, unwilling to face jail time for his crimes and dies in Julie's arms. The film version amends this to Billy accidentally falling on his own knife.
  • Fourth-Date Marriage: Billy and Julie meet in May and are already married in June.
  • Ghost Song: Anything Billy sings after his death, especially his reprise of "If I Loved You."
  • How We Got Here: The film version opens with Billy in heaven; the stage version starts chronologically.
  • Karma Houdini: Jigger, he is able to escape the police when Billy is about to be arrested for the attempted burglary. Though the film version suggests he eventually went to hell.
  • Lacerating Love Language: Billy Bigelow is a poor barker who marries Julie, but struggles to show his affection in healthy ways. While he is rumored to beat her, he states he only hit her once and feels terrible about it. When he dies trying to steal enough money to support their coming child, he is sent to purgatory, but given a chance to see his daughter when she's 15. When Louise rejects his help and his gift, not knowing he's her father and that helping her will send him to heaven, he slaps her. However, Louise later tells her mother that Billy's slap felt like a kiss, not a blow. She asks if that's possible, and Julie understands, realizing it was Billy.
    Louise: He hit me, mother, he hit me hard, but it didn't hurt? It felt like a kiss.
  • Mood Whiplash: The bench scene is a beautiful love song where the couple falls for each other. In the next scene, a month later, they're already having some serious marital problems.
  • Musicalis Interruptus: Julie tries singing "You'll Never Walk Alone," but breaks down crying after a few bars. Nettie and the other townfolks take over.
  • Posthumous Narration: In the film, Billy tells the story of his life with Julie while in heaven.
  • Race Lift: In the 2017 Broadway revival, Billy is played by black actor Joshua Henry.
  • Romanticized Abuse: It's clear that Billy loves Julie. It's also clear that he's abusive, though perhaps less so than in the play it's based on.
  • Setting Update: Subverted. Lilom was set in Budapest around the time it was written (1909). Carousel brings it closer to the writers in place (Maine), but further away in time (1873, then 1888).
  • Small Start, Big Finish: "You'll Never Walk Alone". Nettie is comforting Julie at the beginning so naturally sings softly, but she hits bigger and longer notes as the song progresses.
  • Someone to Remember Him By: Julie and Billy's daughter, Louise, is born after his death.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Billy and Julie, their marriage is rocky and abusive, and he later kills himself to avoid jail time, but when he is allowed his day on Earth, he takes the time before leaving to let Julie know how he felt about her.
    Billy: I loved you Julie. Know that I loved you.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Enoch Snow goes from a decent guy if something of a stuffed shirt, to a prideful rich jerk fifteen year later.