By staff March 5, 2007


A strong cast makes the Golden Apple’s new musical succeed.


By Kay Kipling


Carnival may have been a big hit as an MGM movie musical starring Leslie Caron, back in the early 1950s, but as a stage musical it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. Audiences have to be willing to suspend a little more disbelief than usual, perhaps, for a story that is simple and sweet but also flirts with a darker side. That said, the Golden Apple Dinner Theatre’s current production walks that fine line with some success.

Sarah Farnam as Lili talks to Carrot Top in the Golden Apple’s Carnival.


The setting feels timeless; somewhere in Europe, a traveling carnival is setting up its tents, and an orphaned waif looking for an old family friend finds instead a charming magician and an embittered puppeteer, a former dancer crippled by war. On the verge of losing her childlike heart to the former (but warned off by his jealous girlfriend), Lili finds herself strangely attracted, not to the puppeteer, but to his puppets themselves. In her innocence, she doesn’t see them as bits of cloth and yarn attached to the end of a man’s arm, but as real friends with whom she can converse naturally—making the act an unlikely hit with carnival goers.


It takes someone with the charm and appeal of a Caron to pull this off, and Sarah Farnam manages to be believable as Lili, even when she must undergo a split-second transformation from child to woman at the play’s end. In the equally difficult role of Paul, the puppeteer, Brian Minyard also conveys the heart behind the hurt; it’s all too possible to make Paul just unlikable, but Minyard succeeds in showing us the man’s softer side.


It doesn’t hurt that both he and Farnam are talented singers. They’re abetted by strong support from Jared Walker as the magician and especially Lisa Katt Watson as his mistress, very funny as she tries to cope with his serial infidelities on the tune Humming. And in a circus town like Sarasota, the Apple has also pulled in some ensemble members who can really do the juggling and hula hooping required here.


 Overall, with lots of action in the aisles from cast members peddling balloons and cotton candy, the theater’s small stage never feels too cramped (except perhaps on the dance number Grand Imperial Cirque de Paris, nicely led by Rolfe Winkler), and the eye never has a chance to get bored. Hopefully, with wistful songs like Mira, I’ve Got to Find a Reason and Love Makes the World Go Around in the score, the heart will be touched, too.


Carnival runs through April 22; call 366-5454 or visit the


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