In Part 5 in a series of interviews with the cast of Carousel at Catholic University, meet Hasani Allen.
Joel: Introduce yourself to our readers and tell them what other shows you have appeared in and some of the roles you have played?
Hasani: My name is Hasani Allen; I am a Junior Musical Theater Major at CUA from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I’ve been performing in theater from a very young age, performing in my first professional production at the Walnut Street Theater at the young age of ten. Since arriving at Catholic I’ve performed in Finian’s Rainbow (Howard), Lend me a Tenor (Max), and Godspell (Judas).
Why did you want to be in Carousel at CUA? What did you sing at your audition?
Carousel is actually one of my favorite shows; a very good friend and mentor of mine, Jeff Coon, a local Philadelphia actor played Billy Bigelow when I was first starting to develop my love of Theater and I’ll never forget the confidence and charisma that he exuded in the role. I wanted to be in this show to prove to myself and to others that I could show the same energy and professional perfectionism that the role of Billy requires. For my audition I chose to sing “Oh! What a Beautiful Mornin’” from Oklahoma. I felt that this number accurately represented the pride that Billy has and the joy that the character must display in his life at the opening of the show, my monologue was a direct contrast of this. For that I chose “Willy Loman’s Monologue” from Death of a Salesman, It accurately represented the loss of purpose that my character Billy experiences in the show.
What does Carousel have to say to your generation of theatregoers?
I think Carousel speaks to the humanity in all of us; the characters in the show are not perfect. They all have flaws, especially my character Billy. He is prideful and often times unable to say how he actually feels. But he learns to admit when he is wrong; that is something that young people today, especially my generation can connect to easily. As we grow older we learn to admit our mistakes; we teach ourselves how to grow from them, and we are better able to deal with new challenges when they arise.
Who do you play in Carousel and how do you relate to him or her?
In Carousel I play Billy Bigelow, what I relate to most in the character is his pride; this character knows what he has been through and knows his own strengths and weaknesses. He doesn’t venture far from his comfort zone, but when he does he relies on the lessons that he has learned throughout his life. Which is very similar to my own personality, I am a bit more outgoing than Billy; but it is refreshing to play a character that is direct, and confident in all of his decisions.
What do you admire about your character and what do you not admire?
I admire Billy’s resourcefulness, and his ideals. There are some aspects of Billy that I do not agree with, but I can honestly say that I have nothing but admiration for the character. He may be more aggressive than I would like, but I have nothing but the utmost respect for how he handles his emotions and the situations that he finds himself in. He is constantly working on bettering himself, and I find that so profoundly beautiful.
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 found challenges in discovering the intentions behind some of the things that Billy does in the show, this is a character with a complete lack of purpose; he loses his direction in the show. That is possibly the hardest thing to perform, a character without direction. Jay has been amazing in helping me stay grounded and honing out the finer qualities of Billy, so that as an audience member you never feel like the character is floating in space. Rather, Billy may seem like a caged animal; husbanding power for a moment of need.
What are your solo(s) in the show and what do we learn about your character when you sing it/them?
“If I Loved You” and “Soliloquy” are my two major numbers in the show. The former is sung between Allison Verhofstadt, who plays Julie Jordan and me, the latter is a stream of conscious monologue in song form. “If I Loved You” is interesting because it is the closest that Billy ever gets to telling Julie that he loves her; we learn through this number that Billy often feels manipulated by others and that because of this he often has a hard time letting people in. But due to Julie’s complete faith in him and her honesty he falls head over heels for her. In “Soliloquy” we get a glimpse at Billy’s past, it is the first time he references his own upbringing and his views on society are most apparent.
What have you learned about yourself – the actor and singer- during this whole process?
I have learned how not only feel the emotions of the character and act through those, but to ground myself in the characters thoughts. I’ve learned to be rationally passionate, and to use complete control when needed. This is a character that is never out of control. Billy is impulsive, but never wild or savage.
How do you describe the Rodgers and Hammerstein score and what is your favorite song that you are not performing and why?
The score is gorgeous; it is uniquely tied together and dynamic. My favorite song that I do not perform is “Ballet: Pas De Deux.” It samples melodies from each segment of the show and ties them all into one in such a way that they tell a story all their own. In the Ballet we learn of a character’s entire life; and there is no singing or grand monologues. Just storytelling through music and dance, the audience has to connect to the performers through the music; and the dancers do an amazing job of allowing the music to support their storytelling. It is completely breathtaking.
What do you want audiences to take with them after watching you perform in Carousel?
I hope that audiences leave feeling uplifted, and are inspired by the hope that each character in the show exudes. This show constantly challenges me to reflect on my own life, and to make the most of the time with my loved ones as I can; to live each day to the fullest.
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.