Lyrics: Oscar Hammerstein
Music: Richard Rodgers
Director: Jo Davies
Reviewer: Lu Greer
Carousel, originally written in 1945, tells the story of the ill-fated romance of Billy Bigelow (Keith Higham) and Julie Jordan (Gillene Butterfield). Soon after the two meet they find themselves out of work with Julie pregnant and Billy, seeing no other choice, turns to crime to try and support his unborn child. When the robbery goes south Billy must try to redeem his actions on earth in order to gain entrance to heaven.
It’s certainly a dated plot, and not one that there has been any attempt to update – in dialogue, costume, or set (Anthony Ward) but, arguably it doesn’t need any of those things.
The strongest performance in this show comes from Aoife O’Sullivan as Julie’s friend Carrier Pipperidge. Her acting is strong and her voice is outstanding, but it is her comic timing which makes her the standout performer. Even in lines which to a modern audience would have seemingly weak punch lines, her movement and facial expressions still give them a comic impact.
This is particularly clear when she shares the stage with Stuart Neal (Jigger Craigin), whose portrayal of the rugged sea faring crook is excellent, and really comes into its own during the ‘clambake’ scenes.
The main cast, as a whole, is strong. However, there are several instances of the New England accent being dropped, and one or two points in which a dancer seemed to lose their way, which does take the audience out of the show somewhat.
By far the most captivating aspect of this show are the settings, which are elaborate and at times utterly beautiful – this was particularly true of the carousel set itself, which manages to genuinely create the feeling of being at a fair. The creation of a projector against the back wall to show Billy’s child is a clever and subtly crafted piece of staging which creates a mood in a way that simply showing the performer could never have created.
Overall there are some beautiful dances, particularly from Beverly Grant as Louise Bigelow, and some excellent vocals particularly during the choral reprise of You’ll Never Walk Alone. But this show is starting to show its age. Some of the rather blasé references to wife beating, and the damsel in distress moments, are uncomfortable to a modern audience and many of the songs seem to go on for far too long.
For audiences looking for new theatre experiences, or are just going as casual viewers, this show isn’t going to have any ‘wow’ moments. However, as a piece of nostalgia for members of the audience with some very fond memories of these songs, this is a very well executed show.
Runs Until:30th June and continues to tour | PhotoAlistair Muir