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Theater Reviews: 'Carousel', 'Passion' -- 3 stars

"Carousel" Credit: "Carousel"

Carousel
3 stars

Passion
3 stars

Falling in love is traditionally depicted as a warm, happily-ever-after state of being in most musicals. But there are few that attempt to capture its challenging, tragic and disturbing qualities.

Revivals of two such musicals opened this week: Rodgers and Hammerstein's 1944 beloved and sentimental classic "Carousel" and Stephen Sondheim's 1994 far less beloved and unsentimental "Passion."

"Carousel" needs a large orchestra, and it's terrific to have the New York Philharmonic perform the incredible score under conductor Rob Fisher.

For the most part, John Rando's production, which is led by opera baritone Nathan Gunn and Tony Award nominee Kelli O'Hara as the doomed lovers Billy Bigalow and Julie Jordan, is wonderful.

But doing the show, which depicts how their marriage falls apart and the emotionally troubled Billy finally gains redemption through heavenly assistance, in a large concert venue with little scenery causes problems.

This staging lacks a carousel, and presenting "The Carousel Waltz," which is designed as a pantomime in which the characters are introduced, with no staging, impairs the dramatic flow of everything to follow.

While "Carousel" is widely considered the greatest Rodgers & Hammerstein musical, few cite "Passion," which is well-crafted but dramatically unsettling and musically underwhelming.

Giorgio, a dashing army officer who is having an affair with Clara, a beautiful married woman, is stalked by Fosca, the obsessive cousin of his superior.

Giorgio eventually questions the nature of love and whether he has feelings for Fosca, too.

John Doyle, who gained fame back for his Broadway revivals of "Sweeney Todd" and "Company," provides an economical but gripping staging at Classic Stage. Judy Kuhn gives an unexpectedly empathetic turn as the off-putting Fosca, while Melissa Errico is luminous as Clara.

If you go: "Carousel" plays through Saturday at Avery Fisher Hall, 10 Lincoln Center Plaza, nyphil.org. "Passion" plays through April 7 at Classic Stage Company, 136 E. 13th St., classicstage.org.

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