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CAROUSEL, Drury Lane Oakbrook. The plot of this Rodgers and Hammerstein classic sounds scarily topical: Julie Jordan, a sexually ignorant mill worker, is unable to deal with her abusive boyfriend, Billy Bigelow, a carnival barker. They stumble into a codependent relationship that reduces her to an enabler and him to a victim of criminally low self-esteem. After Billy dies, he gets a chance to return to earth to offer hope to his dysfunctional daughter, ending, it's hoped, the cycle of violence. Wishful thinking and wonderful songs--"What's the Use of Wond'rin'?" "This Was a Real Nice Clambake," and "If I Loved You"--camouflage this lurid crime story set in Maine in 1873.

Ray Frewen's revival is faithful if not quite memorable, though we do get the rarely performed "Beach Ballet." It features Cory Goodrich as a demure Julie and Brian Herriott as a surprisingly lyrical Billy. This Billy is not the bully his character usually is, and he also seems too nice to deserve to die. And it's hard to know why this Julie falls in love with him--these are not the original opposites who attract. Far more persuasive is the safe but goofy marriage between Angela Berra's Carrie and Jeff Dumas's Mr. Snow. Caryn Baham's Nettie climbs all the mountains in "You'll Never Walk Alone," but most moving is Joe Van Slyke's quiet turn in the final scene as a New England doctor urging the class of 1888 to prefer truth to glory.

--Lawrence Bommer

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