Just as Billy Bigelow returns to Earth from Heaven unseen in the Dramat’s fall mainstage “Carousel,” this weekend “Carousel” returned to New Haven. In fact Richard Rogers’ and Oscar Hammerstein II’s tragic story of a carousel barker and his mill-working lover originated in New Haven, as did many of their other classics. While now it is mostly associated with touring company productions of standards — this year features “Annie” among others — the Shubert was once one of the starriest stages outside of Broadway. Marlon Brando performed in the premiere of “A Streetcar Named Desire” at the theater in 1947. Need I say more?
I dropped by the Shubert to get some more information. According to a release from the theater, it all started with “Oklahoma!” The show premiered in 1943 at the Shubert under the title “Away We Go” and was a popular success. (It remains so until this day — tell me you can’t sing “The Surrey with the Fringe On Top.”) Rogers apparently “loved” the theater, and 11 of his shows premiered at the Shubert including “Carousel.”
And let’s not forget, a pivotal plot point in the film “All About Eve” involves a play opening in New Haven. The film critic Addison DeWitt tells the backstabbing Eve, “More plainly and more distinctly: I have not come to New Haven to see the play, discuss your dreams, or pull the ivy from the walls of Yale. I have come here to tell you that you will not marry Lloyd, or anyone else for that matter, because I will not permit it.”