Kitchener-Waterloo

Stratford's Carousel makes audiences uncomfortable, and that's OK

Tackling a tough topic like domestic abuse in a musical is no easy task, and the cast of Stratford Festival's Carousel knows it.

Don't leave humming catchy songs; question the show instead, says star

Alexis Gordon and Jonathan Winsby start in Stratford Festival's production of Carousel, a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical that they hope forces the audience to ask themselves about how society views abusers and their victims. (Don Dixon/Stratford Festival)

Tackling a tough topic like domestic abuse in a musical is no easy task, and the cast of Stratford Festival's Carousel knows it. 

"I made the mistake of coming into this process and wanting everyone to walk away going 'Oh, well that was great! That was 100 per cent great!'," recalls Jonathan Winsby, who stars in the production as Billy Bigelow.

"And then all of a sudden we started previews and realized you could hear people audibly gasp when certain lines were said."

The show centres on Barker — a troubled and angry carousel barker — as he meets, falls in love, marries and starts a family with local girl Julie Jordan. 

But happiness doesn't last long for Billy and Julie. 

"Yes it starts off romantic,"  explains Alexis Gordon, cast as Jordan. "They meet and fall in love. Then it's two months later and everything's fallen apart."

Don't leave humming the show's hit songs

The Rodgers and Hammerstein classic, written in 1945, touches on depression, suicide, and physical abuse. 

And Jordan hopes it forces audiences to question how society deals with abusers and their victims. 

"My thought was 'where's the line drawn?' Is it; you're hit once, and you're out? It's so easy to say that from an outside perspective. But what is it like on the inside? It's truly not that easy.

"That's exactly what you should be talking about for the next few weeks after the show. You shouldn't leave humming 'June.' You should leave debating why Billy was 'forgiven'"

The Stratford Festival runs until Oct. 18. Hit play to listen to a full discussion about Carousel.

now