Rodgers and Hammerstein seem to be enjoying something of a revival with recent tours of South Pacific and The King and I hitting the North West. Now it’s the turn of Carousel produced by Opera North.
It is understandable that all opera companies wish to stretch their abilities but their track record of tackling musicals has been variable to say the least (think of ENO’s disastrous Kismet and Opera North’s own Cole Porter shows lacked pizazz). There is a world of difference between opera and musical theatre and the crossover is very difficult to achieve. So does this showing of Carousel make the leap?
Well the answer is yes and no. There are many good things about this production to enjoy and admire not least the singing, as we should expect. Most of the songs soar and the emotions are truly wrung out whether joyfully, romantically, dramatically or in sheer exuberance.
Its big success is that it is a fresh and original production and it looks good thanks to the designs of Anthony Ward. Particularly effective moments are the staged prologue, the coming together of the carousel, the replete feeling of the clambake, heaven’s backyard, the introduction of Louise and finally the graduation scene where the revolve is put to good use.
But where the show falters is that much of the spoken word is too precious. The dialogue, the acting and the whole feel of the show needs a much rougher edge to make these people and their story really convincing and stir up our feelings. For the first time it left me dry-eyed at the end.
Claire Boulter makes a delightful Carrie Pipperidge. She is full of fun and even after marriage to Mr Snow and nine children manages to be irrepressible. As her husband Joseph Shovelton gives an amusing first scene and entirely convinces as the ambitious and pompous Enoch. Gillene Herbert gives plenty of fire to Julie Jordan and Eric Greene has plenty of charm to light up the carousel but does lack the darker side of the character. When in good voice his singing is great but he holds back in the Soliloquy so it doesn’t have the ‘goose bump’ factor it should have.
As Cousin Nettie - Elena Ferrari gives gravity to "You’ll Never Walk Alone" but her "June is Bustin’ out All Over" is far too refined and the Jigger Craigin of Michael Rouse is wily and wiry, has some good comedy but missing on the real nastiness of the man. William Kenning is a forceful Heavenly Friend and late replacement Peter Bodenham does a fine double as Starkeeper and Dr Sheldon.
With so many praiseworthy things about the show it just deserves its four star rating but too often it misses the real grit that it should have (the robbery scene lacks tension and drama for instance) that it lapses back into three stars. At times it is frustrating to watch what has the potential to be so much better. But with these songs and a spirited cast, it offers a rousing night out.