By now, the death of Pat Carroll is old news; she kicked the bucket at the end of July and I have missed the zeitgeist. Another Disney legend bites the dust.
Still, my far away and impersonal real life encounter with her popped into my head again the other day, and I thought, why not tell it? Much like Glynis Johns, hers is a performance worth celebrating.
PAT CARROLL, STAGE MANAGER…
In 2002, Pat Carroll headlined as the Stage Manager in Round House Theatre’s production of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town. If this Washington Post article is to be believed, this was Round House’s first production in their own dedicated performance venue. Pat Carroll was quite the get.
And I was there in the audience! I saw her do it! I was already a huge fan of Thornton Wilder’s plays even in high school. One year I took an acting class just for funsies, and so much of my self-selected material was Wilder – I did Lily Sabina’s opening monologue from Skin of Our Teeth, and Emily’s first cemetery scene from Our Town itself. So my dad took me to see Our Town as a treat. Pat Carroll didn’t even enter into the decision.
But oh, I remember her performance. I remember her performance very clearly. The set design was spare, with ladders and your imagination demarcating where the houses were. Many times Pat Carroll stood alone on an empty stage.
There was one such part… if I close my eyes I can still see it.
If you’re not familiar with Thornton Wilder’s work, you should know that he loves breaking the fourth wall. Not even; in a lot of his plays the fourth wall is completely dissolved from the first line. In Our Town, the Stage Manager directly addresses the audience constantly.
Pat Carroll was BRILLIANT in the role: she was warm and casual and natural and believable. At one point she delivered a brief monologue to the audience about how they were going to put the play in a time capsule. I, a huge Our Town fan, one who had read the entire script a million times, honest to God thought she was speaking off the cuff. I can hear her voice and see her from my seat in the left rear orchestra. She felt so real.
Of course I went back and found the passage in my copy of the play and realized I was wrong. She was simply delivering her lines. I checked it again just now for your pleasure, but it took me a while; it’s earlier in the play than I realized, but for a hot second I wondered if I’d been right the first time. Pat Carroll Mandela Effect’d me, guys!
… & SEA WITCH
In her capacity as the voice behind The Little Mermaid‘s Ursula, I’m sure I don’t need to sell you on her talents. I’ve mentioned this on the blog before: I find in my old age I am most impressed by Disney’s villains. They tend to have some of the best lines and definitely some of the best songs! And among those very best, I present to you: “Poor Unfortunate Souls.”
Does she sell it, or does she sell it?! She’s not even acting on screen, but her vocals lend so much character to the music and the role. Aside from simply being sinister, the lyrics are rife with satire, and Carroll nails it. I’d have to think about it a bit, but this might be a better villain’s song than Jeremy Irons’ “Be Prepared.” And that’s saying something.
In conclusion: nobody needs to worry about the state of Pat Carroll’s legacy. I for one will remember her always.
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