Thunder Bay Theatre presents ‘Carousel’ July 24 to Aug. 11

Courtesy Photo The cast of Thunder Bay Theatre’s “Carousel” poses at a recent rehearsal. The musical runs July 24 through Aug. 11, at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday.

ALPENA — This merry-go-round is open for business, and all ages are welcome. Get your ticket to “Carousel,” opening Wednesday night at Thunder Bay Theatre.

“‘Carousel’ is a classic Rodgers and Hammerstein play, probably the second-most famous after ‘Oklahoma!’ With songs such as ‘Mr. Snow,’ ‘If I Loved You,’ ‘June Is Bustin’ Out All Over,’ and ‘When The Children Are Asleep.’ Another very famous one is ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone,'” said Jeffrey Mindock, producing artistic director for Thunder Bay Theatre.

While it is full of bright, energetic music and colorful costumes and scenery, “Carousel” is much deeper than a children’s carnival ride.

“It’s important to be telling this story right now because it is a play that examines and drums up conversation about domestic violence,” Mindock noted.

He added that TBT is excited to present this musical for several reasons.

“One of the things that we’ve been most excited about with this production and that we knew we wanted to do with this production from the start was make sure we had actors of color in all the principle roles,” Mindock said. “One, so that our community is exposed to that kind of storytelling, but also to give these young professionals an opportunity to play roles that they’ve maybe never played before.”

This Golden Age musical is directed by Annette Thornton.

“We are so blessed to have Dr. Annette Thornton from Central Michigan University, who’s a professor down there, and more specifically, was one of the primary educators in Dylan Goike’s career, who is our Alpena famous young man,” Mindock said. “So, she has brought in such an amazing amount of experience and empathy and grace and perspective on this work, because it’s what she does.”

Mindock said Thornton has directed “Oklahoma!” at CMU, and has specialty experience with Golden Age and Rodgers and Hammerstein productions.

“She’s directing and choreographing the piece,” Mindock said. “And one of the things that Dr. T and I have always talked about is making sure that there is a high level of storytelling through the movement in the play, rather than just having choreography that is spectacle. And that we’re amazed that the core company is able to accomplish it.”

Lauren Widner will be music director for this play.

“Our music director for this production is equally as talented and experienced,” Mindock said of Widner. “And she just recently finished working at the Lincoln Center off Broadway in New York City.”

After completing her work with Thunder Bay Theatre, Widner will head to Goodspeed Opera House in Connecticut, “which is one of the top 10 regional theatre companies in America,” Mindock said.

Mindock is proud of the example TBT’s diverse cast and crew is making for other companies to hopefully follow.

“So, the fact that we’re able to have this production being led by two experienced, talented educators who are also women, on top of the perspective that this show is led by young actors of color, this is a production that people around the country should be looking at … in regards to representation, diversity, inclusivity, equity,” Mindock said.

The young actors and crew have blossomed under the leadership of Thornton and Widner, he added.

“What has evolved is a technically sound production that is still entertaining,” Mindock said.

Here is a summary of the (Richard) Rodgers and (Oscar) Hammerstein musical, from Thunder Bay Theatre’s website:

“In a Maine coastal village toward the end of the 19th century, the carefree carnival barker, Billy Bigelow, captivates and marries the naive millworker, Julie Jordan. Billy is coerced into being an accomplice to a robbery. Caught in the act and facing the certainty of prison, he takes his own life and is sent ‘up there.’ Billy is allowed to return to earth for one day 15 years later, and he encounters the daughter he never knew. How Billy instills in both the child and her mother a sense of hope and dignity is a dramatic testimony to the power of love.”

“The play is set on the east coast in a boating harbor, and it’s so much about the culture of those people, and the culture of the carnival,” Mindock explained. “And the fact that the carnival barker is an individual of color, and he is oppressed by the white characters in this play. And he is then driven to steal. Is it because of the color of his skin, or the station of his life choices, or is it because he’s a tragically flawed man who is trying to do the right thing, and simply cannot catch a break?”

The cast of “Carousel” includes Caprice Green as Carrie, Tafadzwa Diener as Nettie, Jordan Hand as Enoch, Wesley Hodges as Billy, Desi Rodriguez as Julie, Sarah Matlow as Mrs. Mullin, Karis Mitchell as Louise, Jared Garner as Jigger, and Raymond Cronley as David Bascombe. In the ensemble are Emily Ahrens, Annika Andersson, Josh Rasmussen, Olivia Gerhart, Joey Lanier, Iven Brown, Austin Heath, Collin Heath, Kaelin Heath, Carson Heath, Gradin Heath, Gracelynn Heath, and Jackson Heath.

Scenic designer is Cassie Lentz, costume designer is Erin Wiley, lighting designer is Chris Riley, production manager is Tabitha Camp, and technical director is Jason Luther.

The musical runs Wednesday through Aug. 11, at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $20 per adult, $12 per teen 13 to 17, and $8 per child 12 and younger. Call the box office at 989-354-2267. TBT is located at 400 N. 2nd Ave. in Alpena.

“There will not be a performance on Saturday, Aug. 3, because ‘Mamma Mia!’ will be at the bandshell,” Mindock noted.

This show is made possible in part by the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Two more summer late-night cabarets are coming up, with one this Friday directly after the 7:30 p.m. show. The last summer cabaret will be on the last Friday of the show, Aug. 9.

Registration for TBT summer camps is almost ending, and closes on July 30. For more information, visit www.thunderbaytheatre.org.