book and Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein 11 based on Ferenc Molnar’s play Liliom music by Richard Rogers.
Arcola Theatre 24 Ashwin Street E8 3DL To 19 July 2014.
Mon–Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr 50min One interval.
TICKETS: 0207 503 1646.
Review: William Russell 26 June.
A memorable fairground ride.
Well-sung, well-danced, directed with flair, this is about as good a production of Carousel as one could hope for, although the much-publicised updating to the 1930s – the original was set in 1875 – is neither here nor there. Director and designer go on at some length in the programme about it, but the result is not at all striking – dropping the waist does not a thirties dress make – while the shift in time adds nothing to the story’s resonance.
Carousel has possibly Richard Rogers’ best score, and Oscar Hammerstein’s lyrics are superb, but the plot about wife-beating fairground barker Billy Bigelow killed in an attempted robbery, who goes to Heaven and is sent back to rescue the 15 year old daughter he has never known from going to the bad, redeeming himself in the process, remains tosh.
But this is not a wasted evening. Tim Rogers makes a fine Billy and delivers a first-rate rendering of the big Act One soliloquy ‘My Boy Bill’, a test of any leading man’s skill. He has just the right dangerous good looks for the role.
Gemma Sutton as his adoring Julie – getting hit by your man is all part of life and to be tolerated – sings sweetly, while Vicky Lee Taylor, her pert friend Carrie, the obligatory soubrette, gets the laughs. Joel Montague is a really stalwart Mr Snow – his scene in his Y-fronts has to be seen to be believed – the upright fisherman Carrie marries.
But the standout performance comes from Valerie Cutko as Mrs Mullin, the carousel’s owner, who also loves Billy. She turns a tiny role into something really truthful.
Apart from the time-shift, the major change is to make Nettie, Julie’s cousin, younger than usual and rather raunchy, which works with songs like ‘June is Bustin’ Out All Over’, but takes something away from that great aria, ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’.
Amanda Minihan is fine, but her voice is not sonorous enough. However the dancing is terrific, the sets are superb, the band first-rate, and if it all gets a bit mawkish towards the end it always did.
Julie Jordan: Gemma Sutton.
Mr Bascombe/Starkeeper/Doctor Seldon: Paul Hutton.
Billy Bigelow: Tim Rogers.
Carrie Pipperidge: Vicki Lee Taylor.
Mrs Mullin: Valerie Cutko.
Captain/Carnival Boy: Anton Fosh.
Nettie Fowler: Amanda Minihan.
Enoch Snow: Joel Montague.
Jigger Craigin: Richard Kent.
Arminy/Firebreather: Charlotte Gale.
1st Heavenly Friend/Acrobat: Katrina Dix.
Policeman/2nd Heavenly Friend/Acrobat: Joseph Connor.
Louise: Susie Porter.
Enoch Snow Jr: Michael Carolan.
Director: Luke Fredericks.
Designer/Costume: Stewart Charlesworth.
Lighting: Catherine Webb.
Orchestrator: Mark Cumberland.
Musical Supervisor: Larry Blank.
Musical Director: Andrew Corcoran.