Carousel is a 1945 stage musical by Richard Rodgers (music) and Oscar Hammerstein II (book and lyrics) that was adapted from Ferenc Molnar's play Liliom. The play was adapted into a film in 1956.
Carousel takes place over two acts which encompass the following story:
Two young millworkers in freshly industrialized 1870s New England visit the town's carousel after work. One of them - demure Julie Jordan - shares a lingering glance and is flirted with by the carousel's barker, Billy Bigelow. Mrs. Mullin, the owner of the carousel, arrives and tells Julie never to return to the carousel because she let Billy put his arm around her during the ride. Julie's friend, Carrie Pipperidge, and Julie argue with Mrs. Mullin until Billy arrives. Billy initially sides with Mrs Mullin until he realises that Mrs Mullin is just jealous of Julie, at which point he swaps sides and is fired from his job.
Carrie presses Julie for information about the carousel ride with Billy, but Julie is reticent about the encounter. Eventually satisfied, Carrie confides that she has a beau of her own: local fisherman Enoch Snow. Billy returns and makes it clear that only Julie should stay with him. Carrie eventually leaves after revealing that if they stay out, they will lose their jobs at Bascombe's mill. Mr. Bascombe himself and a policeman appear and warn Julie that Billy has taken money from other women. Bascombe offers to take Julie home so that she can keep her job, but she refuses. She and Billy, now alone, can talk freely, but neither can quite confess the growing attraction they feel for each other.
It is now a month later, and sailors appear at a spa owned by Julie's cousin, Nettie Fowler, with clams for the evening's clambake. They are very noisy, which spurs Carrie and the other female townfolk to jeer at them. Nettie arrives and, spotting the sexual tension, leads them all in a celebration of love and Spring accompanied by an elaborate dance. The men leave as Julie arrives, now married to Billy, but he has been missing all night with his whaler friend Jigger Craigin. Nettie tells Carrie to comfort Julie and tries to get the other girls to clean up to stop them eavesdropping, but to no avail. Julie confides in Carrie that Billy, now unemployed and living with Julie at Nettie's, is unhappy over the loss of her job and has slapped Julie out of frustration. Carrie also has happier news - she and Enoch are to be married. At this, the girls who have so far been feigning work, rush over to congratulate her and imagine the wedding day. During this, Enoch has arrived and startles the girls by joining in the final verse. The girls leave Julie, Carrie and Enoch alone.
Carrie tries to make conversation between Julie and Enoch, but the situation becomes awkward because of Julie's unhappiness, and eventually she bursts into tears in Enoch's arms. As she pulls herself together Billy arrives with Jigger. He is openly rude to Enoch and then Julie, and he soon leaves along with Jigger followed by a distraught Julie. Left alone, Carrie and Enoch extoll the virtues of a life plan and Enoch reveals how he will become rich selling canned sardines and plans to have a large family with Carrie. Meanwhile, Billy, Jigger and other whalers sing of life on the sea which segues into a dance with the local girls flirting with the whalers. Jigger tries to recruit Billy to help with a robbery but Billy declines when Jigger tells him that the victim might have to be killed. Mrs Mullin arrives and tries to tempt Billy back to the carousel and he reveals he is unhappy with Julie. Julie arrives and there is almost an argument, but Mrs Mullin leaves to go to the bank. Julie tells Billy of her pregnancy and they go inside. Mrs. Mullin and Jigger return and spar, until Billy comes back out and tells Mrs Mullin to leave. Overwhelmed with happiness by the news, and determined to provide for his future child, Billy decides to be Jigger's accomplice after all. Act 1 of Carousel ends with the whole town leaving for the clambake. Billy, who previously shunned the idea of going to the clambake, now realises it is integral to his and Jigger's alibi, and so decides to go too. Julie is delighted.
Carousel's second act begins with the town reminiscing about the huge meal that they have just eaten. As everyone leaves to help clear up before the treasure hunt, Jigger tries to seduce Carrie. Unfortunately Enoch walks in whilst Carrie is in a compromising position, and declares that he is finished with her, as Jigger jeers. The girls try to comfort Carrie, saying that all men are bad, and ask Julie to do the same. Instead Julie tells them that you should stand by your man through thick and thin. She sees Billy trying to sneak away with Jigger, and while trying to stop him, feels the knife hidden in his shirt. She begs him to give it to her, but he refuses and leaves to commit the robbery. Julie knows nothing about the crime, but realizes that Billy is about to do something that may get him in trouble. Jigger and Billy play at cards, with the stakes being shares of the forecasted robbery spoils. Soon Billy has lost his much of his stake in the robbery, thus making it pointless on his behalf. Mr. Bascombe, the robbery victim appears, but has already deposited the money and instead has a gun. The robbery is aborted; Bascombe shoots after Jigger but he escapes while Billy is cornered by the police. Billy stabs himself with his knife and dies; Julie arrives too late to save him. Carrie tells Julie that Billy's death is not necessarily a bad thing. Enoch gets back together with Carrie and backs up this view. Mrs Mullin arrives much to the disgust of the townfolk, but Julie lets her view the body. Mrs. Mullin does so, and runs off, weeping. Everyone leaves except Julie, and Nettie who comforts Julie.
The play follows Billy to heaven. There, a pair of blunt-spoken angels explain that he must attempt to solve the problems he left behind. Billy refuses to see a simple magistrate in Heaven, and demands to be taken directly to God to be judged. The Starkeeper sends him back down to earth, fifteen years after his suicide. He steals a star on the way. His and Julie's daughter, Louise, is now an angry and rebellious teen mocked by Mr. Snow's snobbish and wealthy children because her father was a thief. Enoch and his children stop by Julie's house to pick up Carrie on the way to the graduation, and Enoch's son (Enoch Jr.) waits behind to talk to Louise. Louise reveals she will run away from home with the carnival troupe she met during the ballet, but Enoch Jr. proposes that she marry him so that she doesn't go. However he reveals that his father would not think Louise an appropriate match. Insulted, Louise orders him to leave and bursts into tears. Billy reveals himself to Louise, pretending to be a friend of her father. He tries to cheer her up and give her a small gift - the star he stole from Heaven. She refuses it, and in frustration, he slaps her. As he makes himself invisible, Louise tells Julie what has happened, and reveals that the slap miraculously felt like a kiss, not like a blow. Without allowing her to actually see him, Billy finally confesses his love to Julie. Having thus made amends, he is there for Louise's high-school graduation at which the whole town shuns her and refuses to applaud. Dr. Seldon, who strangely resembles the Starkeeper, tells the graduating class not to rely on their parents' success or be held back by their parents' mistakes. Dr Seldon then leads everyone in a final chorus, where, still invisible, Billy urges Louise to have confidence in herself. Although she does not hear him, she responds and, along with Julie, joins in the song. Through this good deed, Billy is redeemed and wins entry to Heaven.