Charming cast of characters a delight in colorful ‘Carnival’

When you think of a carnival, several words come to mind.

Action. Fun. Colorful. Creative. Laughter. Smiles. Entertaining.

You may use these words to describe the Broadway musical, “Carnival,” put on at the Kauai Community College Performing Arts Center. And you could add a few more: Strong voices, boundless energy and pleasant surprises.

The production directed by Greg Shepherd, KCC associate professor of music, opened last weekend and runs again with performances at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 4 p.m. Sunday. If you go see it, you won’t leave disappointed.

The musical follows characters of a traveling circus and gives us a behind-the-scenes look at how people can be when the spotlight isn’t on them. There’s love, of course, and deceit, too. There’s innocence, joy and anger. And there’s lots of beautiful music and you’ll find yourselves humming along at times.

The opening number, “Direct from Vienna” as the entire cast slowly ventures out, sets the stage. It’s a bit haunting and pulls you in for a mesmerizing evening.

We’re introduced right away to Lili Daurier, played by Daphne Sanchez. Lili is an innocent orphan who seeks out the circus hoping to land work and maybe a home. She has high hopes. Lili is the type who draws attention wherever she goes. People are attracted to her beauty and charm.

Sanchez has the leading role and she shines. Her smile, her voice, her mannerisms, carry Carnival from scene to scene. The business major delivers an outstanding performance that makes you care what happens to her character. Her singing is superb.

And before we forget, the dancing is delightful. These carnies can hoof it with the best of them. Watch for the Mimes, the Clowns and the Bluebird Girls. They don’t get a lot of stage time, but when they do, they use it well. Prepare to be entranced.

If there’s a scene stealer in Carnival, it’s the puppets. Some of the funniest, most clever lines come from a walrus and a fox. Listen closely to their words. They are wise, indeed.

Other key cast members are Sterling Snyder, who plays Marco the Magnificent; Beorn Chantara, who plays Paul Berthalet; Richard Porto, who plays B.F. Schlegel; Averie Soto and Jocelyn Slade, who share the role of Rosalie; and Taj Gutierrez, who plays Jacquot.

Snyder has a strong stage presense and delivers his lines with strength and a smile that says there’s more to this guy than what he’s saying. He commanding, self-centered and you don’t want to like him. But he’s at his wicked best when he and Rosalie perform “Magic, Magic.” Watch his expressions.

Chantara plays a former world-famous dancer whose battle wounds in World War II left him a circus puppeteer. Outwardly, he’s angry. Inside, he’s someone with a heart of gold that needs to be warmed up.

When he gets his chance to sing solo, “Her Face,” and later, “She’s My Love,” Chantara’s booming baritone voice fills the auditorium. And the duet between Chantara and Sanchez to “I Hate Him”/”Her Face,” is one of the best numbers of the show.

Some of Kauai’s community leaders, including Wil Welsh and Andy Melamed, have brief but memorable roles. See if you can recognize them.

In the end, “Carnival” isn’t your usual musical. The cast of colorful characters gives it that sense of wonder. Not a boring one in the bunch. It’s unpredictable at times. We wonder if love will win.

Carnival holds its audience in a hypnotic sort of way. Just as if you were at a carnival, you’ll find yourself wondering what’s coming, what’s happening next, unable to look away. And you are rewarded.

Carnival is great fun, talent and direction.

It’s not perfect, mind you.There are some scenes that stretch on a bit too long. Not every voice sounds like it belongs in an opera. The flow between songs isn’t the smoothest.

But remember, this is a carnival, and carnivals aren’t perfect. They can be chaotic and loud and crazy but endearing, too.

Carnival makes one thing clear: Love does indeed make the world go ‘round.

Don’t miss it.

Tickets are $15 for adults, $8 for keiki under 12 and can be purchased at Kmart, Scotty’s Music, KCC Bookstore, or Island Soap & Candleworks. Tickets are also available at www.thecarnival.brownpapertickets.com and at the door.

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