Did Alfie Boe and Katherine Jenkins send the critics to heaven in Carousel?
Jenkins makes her West End debut in this 'semi-staged' production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's musical
Daisy Bowie-Sell, WhatsOnStage
"Carousel is apparently [Rodgers and Hammerstein]'s favourite of their own musicals and Lonny Price's strong production demonstrates exactly why. Though they softened the ending of the play on which it is based – Ferenc Molnar's 1909 work originally ended with a suicide - Carousel still manages to serve as a bracing morality piece. It's a lesson in being the master of your own life and shaking off unwelcome legacies left by your parents."
"It's not that Alfie Boe and Katherine Jenkins as the doomed lovers are bad. They aren't, but it's just that neither of them are the best things about this production. Jenkins has a watery part in Julie Jordan but, in her West End debut, her acting skills do manage to convince. And though her voice is not made for musical theatre, it is an absolute treat to listen to her sing these songs."
"Boe is also very easy on the ear, but his acting leaves a lot to be desired - he is rigid throughout."
"Price has it less semi-staged and more heavily staged, with the entire cast working very hard in some big, satisfying ensemble scenes. In fact, the only sections which feel a little bare are the moments with just Jenkins and Boe. But mostly, like the best types of fairground rides, this does not disappoint."
Henry Hitchings, Evening Standard
"Katherine Jenkins, making her stage debut, is demure and appealing as Julie Jordan, a poor millworker in coastal Maine. The part has limitations, but she's plausible as a young woman seduced and then devastated by a reckless bad boy, and she sings ardently, albeit with a bit too much breathy vibrato."
"As Billy Bigelow, the volatile fairground barker, Alfie Boe is able to show off his pure and potent tenor voice. But his acting is stiff, and we get a limited sense of his character's violent transformations. Instead his mood is one of morose intensity pretty much throughout - interrupted only when he's briefly elated to find out that he's set to become a father, though this soon prompts more gloom."
"It's billed as a semi-staged production, so there aren't elaborate sets, yet the scale is still impressive. Josh Rhodes's choreography is sharp, the chorus relishes the music's sophistication and bright support comes from Alex Young and Derek Hagen, with Gavin Spokes especially good as Enoch Snow, a jauntily aspirational figure whose basic decency contrasts with Billy's thuggishness."
Paul Taylor, The Independent
"Aficionados of the form tend to agree with Rodgers that nothing surpasses this score, premiered in 1945, in the R&H canon for sheer beauty. There is controversy, though, in Hammerstein's book, which gives a New England setting to the dark saturnine Hungarian play Liliom, whose protagonist, a fairground barker, beats his wife, dies in a failed robbery, burns in hell for 16 years and then screws up his one chance of salvation when granted a day back on earth."
"For all his mighty vocal prowess, Alfie Boe's performance brings to mind one short plank. His long black wig comes to seem more emotionally eventful than the rest of him as he struggles to portray the subtler aspects of a man whose deep inferiority complex has saddled him with the pose of swaggering tough."
"I loved, by contrast, Katherine Jenkins. Her rapturously beautiful voice soars from the mezzo-like swimming cream of its lower register to the shiver-inducing silver of its heights. There's a terrible dignity to the way she copes with being unable to stop loving a man whose pain she understands. "
Michael Billington, The Guardian
"Since the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic was recently lovingly revived by Opera North, there is not the same sense of rediscovery that there was with last year's Sunset Boulevard. But it is a pleasure to hear singers of the calibre of Alfie Boe and Katherine Jenkins in the lead roles and to luxuriate in a 42-piece orchestra bringing out the rich colours of Rodgers's score."
"What strikes one is the adventurousness of the show itself. Its hero, Billy Bigelow – as in the source material, Ferenc Molnár's Liliom – is a fairground barker who resorts to violence to cover his inarticulacy: even if one jibs at the acceptance of this by his wife, Julie, there are strange parallels, as Alfred Hickling has pointed out, with another protagonist of a musical work from 1945, Peter Grimes."
"The only paradox about Lonny Price's excellent revival is the use of the term "semi- staged": it looks pretty complete to me. James Noone's designs, projecting images of a New England fishing village on to a set of curved sails, have the subdued beauty of Andrew Wyeth's paintings. Josh Rhodes's choreography is a full-blooded affair, at its best in a hornpipe that the dancers perform with virile agility."
Rupert Christiansen, The Telegraph
"As the ingénue Julie Jordan, [Jenkins] looks lovely and acts sweetly in a June Allyson girl-next-door way that never becomes simpering. Her singing is good too – both her big numbers, "If I Loved You" and "What's The Use of Wondering?" are shaped with warmth and feeling, though a fast vibrato creeps in whenever she puts pressure on the voice."
"Looking like a greasy rocker dude - the sort of hopeless man that nice girls fall for - [Boe] gives an impressive performance, rising to the histrionic demands of his Act One soliloquy and making something genuinely poignant of his remorse beyond the grave. In this context, his voice and style sound almost too grandly expansive: he could dump the head mike and easily do it au naturel."
"Lonny Price has adequately directed what one might call a three-quarters production, updating the setting to the '30s and using projections as scenery. The opening sequence is a mess, the dancing underwhelming and spectacle in short supply, but fans of Boe and Jenkins won't come way feeling short-changed."
Carousel runs at the London Coliseum until 13 May.