photo: Joan Marcus
The Kennedy Center's production of Carnival! opened to raves last week. Did they see the same show I did? Yes the sound of that full orchestra quickens the heart and yes the circus-themed sets and costumes are all kinds of eye-poppingly wonderful. But it all seems an embarassment of riches spent on this oddball antique of a musical that time has not been the least bit kind to. The book (cut by about half an hour here) tries to balance the sweet naivete of its heroine with the hard-knock cynicism of the carnival performers she takes up with: the naivete is laid on so thick (she talks to hand puppets) you may feel you're choking on cotton candy, and the cynicism isn't dark and dangerous enough. What I can rave about are the performers in this production's B-story, Sebastian La Cause and Natascia Diaz. He, as pompous ladykiller magician Marco The Magnificent, effortlessly blends arrogance and charm; paging Drowsy Chaperone when another Adolpho is needed. She, as his lovelorn assistant who tries to make him stay by threatening to leave him all evening, is vividly passionate and funny. Their eleven o'clock duet, in which the magic act seems to split her in three, is easily this Carnival!'s niftiest attraction.