Critics in a whirl over Arcola's Carousel
June was bustin' out with pollen the night Carousel hit town. Hot and muggy, it would be hard to imagine worse performing conditions for a small company in a spit-'n'-sawdust venue to stage one of Broadway's most iconic musicals, yet Morphic Graffiti's talented 12-strong troupe nailed it … Luke Fredericks has updated Carousel by 50 years to a Depression-era setting that adds real power to the story … Gemma Sutton is magnetic in her stillness … This Carousel is a pint-sized powerhouse of a show thanks to some zippy direction and effervescent choreography by Lee Proud.
Never has Carousel (1945) seemed so fresh and poignant and vital, but on a scale that is profoundly human… Proud’s choreography is consistently joyous and even pulls off the almost impossible task of making that hard-work second-half ballet scene appear essential rather than inevitable… The fiery intimacy of the relationships, both romantic and platonic, is minutely conveyed; the slightest flicker passing across the countenance of the fascinatingly soulful Sutton speaks eloquently of Julie’s loyalty and fear… At £21 per ticket, this is surely one of the best theatrical deals in town.
The Arcola’s utilitarian interior is perfectly adapted for Luke Fredericks’ brutally intimate production. The five-piece band perches on a mezzanine above the stage, where Stewart Charlesworth’s faded designs evoke a New England fishing village and the tattered glamour of the carousel… Valerie Cutko gives a beautiful, tragic cameo as the carousel owner, Mrs Mullin. Tim Rogers as Billy and Gemma Sutton as his sweetheart, Julie, are affecting, while Vicki Lee Taylor and Joel Montague, daringly parading his substantial person in tight white pants, are engaging as Julie’s best friend, Carrie, and her fiancé, Enoch Snow… The result is an emotional wringer of a revival.
One of the many things this vibrant adaptation of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel gets absolutely right is the allure of the circus … It’s also an incredibly physical show, with choreographer Lee Proud propelling scenes along with raucous, sinewy and sensual routines that steam up the theatre. Director Luke Fredericks keeps the sexual tension simmering away while stirring in a welcome dollop of humour. Vicki Lee Taylor is scene-stealingly hilarious as Jordan’s preening best friend Carrie Pipperidge … in the end, it’s the sheer humanity and big-heartedness of this production that carries you along with it. … the supremely talented ensemble cast hit all the right notes. You’ll be far from dry eyed as you step off this Carousel.
This revelatory fringe production reveals haunting new textures in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s richly patterned tapestry of life and romance among millworkers, fairground staff and fishermen in Maine… A great deal of care and love is shown for the material, with performances of aching sincerity and wonderment from Gemma Sutton and Vicki Lee Taylor as the two millworker friends whose marital lives have such different outcomes… A terrific five-strong band, led from the piano by Andrew Corcoran with a rich harp provided by Alex Thomas, adds musical muscle to a stunning evening.