At a busy American state fair, the eyes of Julie Jordan and Billy Bigelow meet for the first time across the carousel. Compelled to be together despite the obvious class difference, they begin a tentative relationship, not helped by Billy's nasty temper and the interference of his boss at the fair who is clearly jealous. Although Julie is questioned by her close friend Carrie over Billy's suitability, she appears convinced and they set up home together.
Comic relief is provided by Carrie and her infatuation with the dapper Mr Snow. A bumbling seafarer, Mr Snow however returns her feelings and proposes quickly, much to Carrie's delight. Carries naivety results in a few misunderstandings along the way, including her being carried away over the shoulder over Billy's rougue friend Jigger, but she is always forgiven by her true love. We later meet the newest additions to the Snow clan, all seven of them!
Tragedy strikes for Julie when Billy's temper flares at the wrong time and he is fatally injured in a brawl, just as Julie tells him that she is expecting their baby. Billy is given a chance to evaluate his life by the Starkeeper, who makes him understand his wrongdoings and get the chance to meet his litle girl. As the child tells her Mother of the meeting, Julie understands that Billy is sorry and is watching over her always.
A sprawling tale told over twenty years, Carousel is perhaps the most tear-jerking of the R&H musicals.