Monday, 30 November -0001

Theatre Review: 7 September

Russell Grant is enchanted by a Carousel that only loses steam at the end

Written by Russell Grant


Russell-Grant-head-shot-176Armed with a leftover box of tissues from the Olympics, I prepared myself for the emotional challenge that the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Carousel has forced upon me ever since I first saw the Shirley Jones/Gordon MacRae film in my youth.

The final scene is part of musical mythology. The soaring hymn You'll Never Walk Alone, in full harmony, has regularly left me a blubbering wreck, so I prepared myself.

Opera North's new production of the musical, set in Maine, is currently on at The Barbican. The clever opening, staged to the glorious Carousel Waltz is ingenious as different shapes and shards of wood, complete with lights, become like a jigsaw pulled apart and pieced together.

Every voice in the company is beautiful from the first note: Sarah Tynan is a quirky Carrie Pipperidge; Katherine Manley as Julie Jordan; Michael Todd Simpson powers as Billy, and Joseph Shovelton melts as Mr Snow with his sumptuous voice.

For me, everything hinged on Nettie's dulcet tones, and Yvonne Howard looked and sang like the motherly angel I wanted her to be – her loving, comforting You'll Never Walk Alone was my first plunge into the Kleenex.

Kay Shepherd's choreography came into its own with the butch, intimidating Blow High, Blow Low giving Michael Rouse's villain Jigger Craigin and his nasty whaling gang even more edge. Kay hands over the dance baton to Kim Brandstrup who produces a beautiful ballet for Beverley Grant to pull our heart strings as Louise.

And now for the finale (spoiler alert!): the scene is the graduation. The music builds and fine actor John Woodvine is the principal, handing out prizes. Enter Billy, fresh from heaven, having been given one day to seek closure for 'unfinished business' on Earth. Wife Julie feels his presence, daughter Louise feels something, too. But I didn't feel the emotional surge I wanted, mainly because of the construction of the staging and singing. And the fuzzy shooting star across the cyclorama had to contend with what looked like a bulge in the fabric.

Vocally and choreographically the production is beautiful, and apart from a little disappointment in the finale, this Carousel would be a classic. It's just a pity that the fifth star got stuck somewhere in the lacklustre ending.

Carousel is at The Barbican, Silk Street, London EC2 until 15 September: 020-7638 8891,

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