In Part 4 in a series of interviews with the cast of Carousel at Catholic University, meet Catherine Purcell.
Joel: Introduce yourself to our readers and tell them what other shows you have appeared in and some of the roles you have played?
Catherine: I am Catherine Purcell and I will be playing Carrie Pipperidge in CUA’s production of Carousel. I am a junior musical theatre major and I have previously appeared in Godspell and The Merry Widow at CUA as well as a revue of the music of Frank Loesser at the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage through CUA.
Why did you want to be in Carousel at CUA? What did you sing at your audition?
I wanted to be in Carousel at CUA because it is one of my favorite Golden Age shows. The music is so gorgeous and a gift to sing and perform, and the story has more depth than most musicals of its time. I actually sang “(When I Marry) Mr. Snow” for my audition, which my character sings in the show, because we were presented with the opportunity to sing a piece from Carousel.
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?
Yes! I performed in a summer, community theatre production of Carousel my junior year of high school as Nettie Fowler. My first experience with Carousel was a good, rudimentary introduction to the show because I learned about the characters, I became familiar with the story and the music, and I understood the time period and setting. However, in this production, I have learned so much more about every character, particularly Carrie, and their intricate relationships. Our director did a really great job of helping us all develop relationships and making the little town that the characters live in seem much more real.
What does Carousel have to say to your generation of theatregoers?
Carousel does an excellent job of exposing very human and relatable characters, which is something I know that my generation of theatregoers looks for when seeing a musical. In the show, though everyone makes mistakes, the characters move on, just as we have to in life and I think that is the most important thing my generation of theatregoers can take away from the show.
Who do you play in Carousel and how do you relate to him or her?
I play Carrie Pipperidge, who begins the show as a naïve, fun, and spirited 18 year old. Carrie is very socially aware and practical, much more so than her best friend, Julie Jordan. This practicality and her high ideals draw her to future husband, Enoch Snow, who is a budding entrepreneur. She soon learns that what she wants is not exactly what Enoch wants and her life becomes the embodiment of the adage of “be careful what you wish for.” I, like Carrie, am very practical and like to stay on the straight and narrow. I also think Carrie and I are both loyal friends and are not afraid to stand up for the people we love.
What do you admire about your character and what do you not admire?
I admire that Carrie, though she ends up having six children and endures a very long and somewhat taxing marriage, keeps her zest for life, which we see from the top of the show to one of the very last scenes. I also admire Carrie’s honesty, because she is not afraid to say what she is thinking. However, this can sometimes seem a bit insensitive and she often lacks tact.
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?
Those who are familiar with the show know that sometimes Carrie is often played as the silly and dumb character. While there is an aspect of fun in Carrie that is not present in Julie or the other female characters, I perceive her as being quite intelligent, but she sometimes ends up in sticky situations. Jay, our director, shared the vision of eliminating the element of stupidity in Carrie and helped me find a more relatable and interesting character.
What are your solo(s) in the show and what do we learn about your character when you sing it/them?
I sing “You’re a Queer One, Julie Jordan”, “(When I Marry) Mr. Snow,” and “When the Children are Asleep.” These songs are not only revealing of her relationships with Julie and Enoch, respectively, she tells the audience what she wants, which is a future with a reliable man. The audience also learns that Carrie has a romantic side in “When the Children are Asleep,” but this also showcases Enoch’s dreams, which greatly differ from her own.
What have you learned about yourself – the actor and singer- during this whole process?
I have learned to be more trusting of myself and to follow my instincts. I have also learned to do as much research as possible on the show, time period, etc. It is important to have the facts before I can make inferences and jump to conclusions.
How do you describe the Rodgers and Hammerstein score and what is your favorite song that you are not performing and why?
I would describe this score as lush and playful; I would also classify it is another character in the show as it does a brilliant job of telling the story. Hearing all of this music performed by a 28 piece orchestra is a true gift. My favorite song that I am not performing is the Soliloquy because the music exactly mirrors the churning of Billy’s mind and his beat changes.
What do you want audiences to take with them after watching you perform in Carousel?
In the score there is a quote from Oscar Hammerstein on “The Carousel Waltz” that says, “Here is what Billy would be singing if he could be heard: “Ride on the Merry-Go-Round! Ride for a mile for a nickel! Ride on the merry-go-round with your sweetheart by your side!”” Though this show has incredibly dark moments, this quote really encompasses the lighthearted and romantic aspects of the show. I hope the audience leaves the theatre with the message of hope and love and feeling that the characters have found peace and redemption.
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.