Thom Sutherland brings New England to the intimate setting of the Broadway Studio Theatre Catford with his production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's doomed love story of carousel barker Billy Bigalow and mill worker Julie Jordan.
Sutherland retains material that is often cut which gives a pleasing holistic feel to the piece, making sense of all the musical numbers. The small cast, beautifully simple open set design and two piano accompaniment means the spotlight is on the quality of the acting, american accents, dance and singing. The cast delivers superbly on every aspect, singing with harmonious enthusiasm, executing Ewan Jones’ demanding choreography and acting performances far superior to those seen in the recent West End version of the same piece.
Undoubtedly a challenging and demanding piece, due to the accents, emotional content, especially act two when the emotionally deficient Billy decides that suicide is his only way out from a failed robbery, which was intended to support his wife and unborn child.
Peter Kenworthy’s performance as Billy perfectly captures the conflicted and flawed "use your fist first, think later" macho man, who strikes out at those he loves. Julie is played masterfully by Gemma Atkins effortlessly combining the naive vulnerability of love with an underlying strength of character. Carrie, played by Emma Sewell steals the audience's heart with acting and singing which combines humour and the warmth and loyalty of a best friend.
Carousel demands a cast who work as an ensemble as one weak link can undermine the entire performance. The gawkish, straight-laced Mr Snow, the lovelorn widowed carousel owner, Mrs Mullen and Jigger Craigin, the architect of Billy's demise, were all played superbly. Sarah Head as Nettie gave a strong performance delivering "June Is Busting Out All Over" with animated enthusiasm. She may not have the vocal strength of Lesley Garrett but gave a fine rendition of "You'll Never Walk Alone".
Carousel is one of Rodgers and Hammerstein best, with a wonderful score, memorable songs which you sing, whistle or hum as you leave the theatre and if you love it, I can think of no better production.
- Barry Honeycombe