Rated 3.0

City Theatre at Sacramento City College brings good things to the tent in its production of Carnival. The cast and crew unveil clever puppets, colorful costumes, imaginative sets, a lively seven-member band, an engaging lead and a detail-oriented director in this re-creation of a run-down traveling European carnival.

The members of the large, mostly student, cast give the audience their hearts and enthusiasm with their portrayals of various carnival characters. We also get one shy, vulnerable orphan (Gina Marchitiello in a sweet portrayal) who wants to be adopted by this strange cornucopia of social misfits.

Unfortunately, City Theatre can’t pull something out of its circus trunks that it never had: a musical with memorable songs or a sympathetic story. This 1961 musical by Bob Merrill and Michael Stewart isn’t staged very often, and for good reason. The tunes are sleepy and forgettable; the story is ponderous and a little creepy.

Lily is a teenage orphan searching for her father’s carnival friend, only to be greeted by a philandering carnival barker, a womanizing magician and a puppeteer with anger-management issues. In the end, when the young innocent waltzes off with the angry puppeteer who verbally and physically abuses her, instead of applauding, you want to do an immediate intervention.