In Part 3 in a series of interviews with the cast of Carousel at Catholic University, meet Harrison Smith.
Joel: Introduce yourself to our readers and tell them what other shows you have appeared in and some of the roles you have played?
Harrison: My name is Harrison Smith and I’m a Musical Theatre Major at Catholic University. In Carousel, I play Jigger Craigin as well understudy the roles of Billy Bigelow and Enoch Snow. As a new transfer to CUA, this is my first show with them, but previously in the area I worked with the amazing Infinity Theatre Company from NYC in Annapolis this past summer playing The Emperor in their new production of The Emperor’s New Clothes. I also have worked with the wonderful folks at Kensington Arts Theatre (check out their fall production of The Addams Family in a few weeks) where I played Marius in Les Miserables, Moritz in Spring Awakening, Younger Brother in Ragtime, Frankie/Young Soldier in Parade. Folks from closer to the Annapolis area may have seen me with Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre as Jack in Into the Woods and Nicky in Avenue Q.
Why did you want to be in Carousel at CUA? What did you sing at your audition?
After I had made the decision to come to CUA and found out they were putting up Carousel this fall, I immediately read the script and listened to the score. I was really surprised at how ahead of its time of a piece it was, as well as how dark it is, especially for an era of musical theatre that often has been synonymous with big silly dance numbers and fluffy storylines with stock characters. I of course was interested in the opportunity to work on such a unique piece. For my audition, I sang a cut from The Surrey with the Fringe on Top from Oklahoma as well as performed one of Biff’s monologues from Death of a Salesman.
Had you ever been in another production of the show, and if yes, who did you play, and how is this production different than the other one you were in?
This is my first production of Carousel so it has been a totally fresh experience.
What does Carousel have to say to your generation of theatregoers?
Carousel has often been looked at as a show that has a sympathetic view on domestic abuse. In actuality, it’s a show that includes this element because it’s a period piece of the late 1800’s where domestic abuse was ingrained in the mind of the public as being ok because if you were married, often a man’s wife was considered to be property. Obviously we as a society have opened our eyes to just how wrong that is however, Rodgers and Hammerstein clearly included these elements for a reason. I think the show says to our generation of theatergoers that anytime humans enter any sort of relationship (romantic, business, friendship) there is a pretty good chance that things are going to be messy at some point. It’s a show about how there is no such thing as a truly perfect relationship because while human beings are relational by nature, we are also inherently all deeply flawed as well.
Who do you play in Carousel and how do you relate to him or her?
I play Jigger Craigin, who is sort of a scumbag sociopath. I don’t really know if I would say I can find many ways that I relate to him in terms of personality.
What do you admire about your character and what do you not admire?
While we do not have much in common, I really admire how cunning Jigger is. He has a keen eye for human beings and often times knows exactly how to leverage that into getting his way. Things I don’t admire: being a murderer, being a traitor, his substance abuse issues, being a thief, his total lack of respect for women, his lack of empathy…I could go on and on.
What have been the challenges you have encountered while preparing for your role and how have you overcome these challenges? How did your director help you?
I think the biggest challenge in preparing to play Jigger has been being able to root the text in realism. Jigger is a character that of the principals in the show is the easiest to fall into playing as silly cartoon. When I initially read the script, I noticed that while Jigger is responsible for several laughs throughout the piece, he is also HEINOUS. Our director, Jay Brock has been incredibly supportive and collaborative in letting me take Jigger in a much darker direction than usual and working with me in making sure that while playing him darker, we make sure that when things are meant to be jokes they still land, but not in a pointed out “HEY THIS IS A JOKE” way but in a truthful way where you aren’t laughing at the joke being delivered, but rather the way the totally lack of empathy Jigger feels for anything relates to the circumstance at hand.
What are your solo(s) in the show and what do we learn about your character when you sing it/them?
Jigger’s big solo comes in one of the first appearances he has on stage in “Blow High, Blow Low”. Not only is it a super incredibly fun number with some really fun athletic choreography by our brilliant choreographer Pauline Grossman, but it also gives you a quick glimpse of Jigger’s hedonistic attitude towards life.
What have you learned about yourself – the actor and singer- during this whole process?
I would say I’ve learned even more so than I initially thought just how incredibly challenging of an art form dance is. Our unbelievable dance ensemble in this show has been among the hardest working group of people I have ever done theater with. They have put in so many additional hours making sure that the three big dance pieces in the show look beautiful. I am humbled to get to dance alongside of them in just one!
How do you describe the Rodgers and Hammerstein score and what is your favorite song that you are not performing and why?
Rodgers and Hammerstein’s score to this show is lush and sweeping. It’s a perfect representation of what golden age musical theater is. As for my favorite song in the show, it would undoubtedly be “Soliloquy”. It is just such a genius work. It’s one of the first musical theatre songs that had music dictate the emotion of the actor in a complex manner where the rhythm, meter, shifting melody, requirement of shifting vocal timbre, and text all converge to take the burden of the work away from the actor if they just sing the words and feel the music. You can really see it act as a stepping-stone to some of the great musical theater songs of the modern era. It’s also a song where you can see clearly how Hammerstein’s work influenced Sondheim. It moves and develops in a way that lays the groundwork for some of Sondheim’s greatest pieces like “Moments in the Woods” from Into the Woods or “Epiphany” from Sweeney Todd or other of his big pieces that move in this way. It’s just perfect.
What do you want audiences to take with them after watching you perform in Carousel?
I would like audiences to walk away from Carousel with perhaps a fresh perspective on the piece. I would also be totally ok if they just walk away happy to have seen a well done piece of classic musical theater with a full 28 piece(!!!) orchestra (put together by our awesome music director, Tom Pederson) in a large theater, exactly how big classic shows like this should be seen.
Meet the Cast of ‘Carousel’ at Catholic University: Part 1: Meet Philip da Costa.
Meet the Cast of ‘Carousel’ at Catholic University: Part 2: Meet Luke Garrison.
Meet the Cast of ‘Carousel’ at Catholic University: Part 3: Meet Harrison Smith.
Meet the Cast of ‘Carousel’ at Catholic University: Part 4: Meet Catherine Purcell.
Meet the Cast of ‘Carousel’ at Catholic University: Part 5: Meet Hasani Allen.
Meet the Cast of ‘Carousel’ at Catholic University: Part 6: Meet Mary Efimetz.