After successes with Sunset Boulevard and Sweeney Todd, English National Opera continues its annual headline-grabbing foray into musical theatre with Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Carousel, which continues until 13 May 2017 at the London Coliseum.
As with the previous ENO musicals of the past two years, this production is produced by Michael Linnit and Michael Grade (who are also behind the current big-budget production of another Broadway classic, 42nd Street, just opened at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane) and directed by Lonny Price. And, whereas Sweeney had Bryn Terfel and Emma Thompson and Sunset (now on Broadway) had Glenn Close, Carousel boasts two more big names leading the cast: classical singers Alfie Boe and Katherine Jenkins, who are accompanied by ENO’s 40-piece orchestra and chorus.
What did critics think of their performances? I’ve rounded up key overnight reviews and features.
THE TIMES – ★★★★★
Ann Treneman: She can sing like an angel, she looks divine, but can Katherine Jenkins act? Well, after I spent almost three hours smiling, tapping my feet and shedding the odd tear through the Welsh classical crossover star’s stage debut, I can report that, yes, yes she can. She impresses in a beguiling if uneven show in which it is co-star Alfie Boe whose full-monty operatic singing is shown up by his narrow acting range.
EVENING STANDARD – ★★★
Henry Hitchings: Katherine Jenkins is demure and appealing as Julie Jordan, a poor millworker in coastal Maine. The part has limitations, but she’s plausible… 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… The story’s emotional complexities aren’t fully explored. When the characters sing, the show soars. A lot of the time, though, they’re not singing.
THE STAGE – ★★★
Mark Shenton: The ENO production is billed as a semi-staged version, but it might be more accurate to describe Lonny Price’s production as semi-acted. Boe and Jenkins seem at cross-purposes, and not just in the mismatched aspirations of the characters they are playing… The performances are mostly caricatures, with the exception of the delightful Alex Young and Gavin Spokes lending some individuality and humour and providing a necessary respite from the prevailing earnestness. By all means go to bask in the beautiful, ravishingly performed score again, but Carousel has seldom felt less affecting.
TIME OUT – ★★★
Andrzej Lukowski: Despite having virtually never acted before, Jenkins is actually okay in a breathy, slight tragic-Monroe type way. Musical theatre regulars Alex Young and Gavin Spokes do a great job with sub plot leads Carrie and Enoch, and Nicholas Lyndhurst, of all people, is super in a late cameo as a whimsical celestial being, but they can only do so much with small roles.
BROADWAY WORLD – ★★★
Nicky Sweetland: The musical, which was the writing partnership’s second Broadway hit show and purportedly their favourite, boasts possibly one of the most beautiful overtures ever written for theatre, and with the 40-piece ENO orchestra under the baton of David Charles Abell, is performed to its full and glorious potential. But the music is where this show is at its strongest, with Lonny Price’s production failing to add any depth to a musical that could be better described as semi-acted rather than as semi-staged.