This year’s play, Carousel, a Youth Bridge Global Production directed by RMI citizen Professor Andrew Garrod, is a demanding piece of theater. What makes this play especially difficult is the wide range of challenging dance sequences.
I heard Professor Garrod remark to the cast one day that Carousel has more complicated and intricate choreography than any of the other plays that he has produced here in the RMI, and given the fact that he has put on 15 plays out here ranging from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet to West Side Story, that is saying a lot. Fortunately for us, Ilona Bito, who also choreographed our amazingly memorable production of Grease in 2018, returned for three weeks to teach 53 of our young actors from most of the Majuro middle and high schools a wide range of dances that are designed to pull the audience through the story, including some wonderfully enchanting ballet sets.
The daily rehearsals have been filled with a tremendous amount of laughter and joy, along with those tense moments when Professor Garrod — in what I will affectionately call a “loud voice” — deems it necessary to demand the most out of us as we draw closer and closer to Opening Night on Monday, March 2.
The story of Carousel revolves around carousel operator Billy Bigelow (played by seasoned actors Duke Gaston and Jobod Silk on alternating nights), whose romance with millworker Julie Jordan (Carnie Reimers) comes at the price of both their jobs. Billy participates in a robbery to provide for Julie and their unborn child; after it goes tragically wrong, he is given a chance to make things right.
A secondary plot line deals with millworker Carrie Pipperidge (Ikue Alik and Jeita Peter) and her romance with ambitious fisherman Enoch Snow (Frank Chase Domnick, Yuli Maddison and Tony Paul). The talented Tristen Horiuchi is cast as Billy’s partner in crime, Jigger, and Yolanie Jurelang and Lilia Jack alternate as the character of Mrs. Mullin, Billy’s former lover. Save Filolita has been cast as Louise, Julie and Billy’s daughter 15 years in the future, and Wilmer Joel plays the mill owner, Mr. Bascombe. Andrea Magalang, who has a great singing voice, plays Nettie Fowler, a club owner.
Richard Rodgers, one of the authors of the play, wrote that Carousel was his favorite of all his musicals. The fabulous music for the play has been taught to our young ensemble by a talented Dartmouth student, Jacob Donoghue. Rounding out the Dartmouth support for the play is Joseph Collum, who is helping produce and direct the play with Professor Garrod.
Bonny and Ken Taggert are here to ultimately help pull the production together as they have in the past. Bonny is in charge of creating the costumes and is the hard working and constant troubleshooter for the production, while husband Ken is building the sets for the stage.
But the help from our community does not end with them: MIHS Librarian Suciana Mark allowed us to invade her library every day for the first five weeks of practice. Cheta Anien and Yshiwata Lomae translated the script, and Wilbur Alik, a PhD student of Anthropology at Northern Minnesota University, translated the synopsis and the director’s note. Miram deBrum is coordinating all the cast moms so they can provide meals for the actors every day. Angela Saunders of Jambo Arts and Bruce Wei Shen of Co-op helped paint the set.
Cassiano Jetnil is providing support in getting the stage set up and is coordinating transportation for the cast, and Jerre Bennett of the Instructional Student Center is producing the programs, the poster, and the tickets. And lastly, we appreciate the incredible financial support from our government. Thanks to all of these wonderful people and organizations for helping bring some welcomed diversionary stage magic to the Marshall Islands.
Opening Night of the six scheduled performances of Carousel is on Monday, March 2.