The Coliseum, London – until 13 May 2017
Following on from Lonny Price’s previous successes with Sweeney Todd and of course last year’s Sunset Boulevard, his production of Carousel truly celebrates the music of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classic musical – but at the sacrifice of creating fully formed characters for the cast to play.
The second collaboration between Rodgers & Hammerstein was based on Ferenc Molnár’s 1909 play Liliom, telling the story of Billy Bigelow and his romance with Julie Jordan, which goes wrong as Billy attempts to raise money to help support his unborn child. Essentially, aside from the romance it is a tale of regret and redemption and very different to other Rodgers and Hammerstein works.
For this production, Alfie Boe takes on the complicated character of Billy while Katherine Jenkins plays the sweetly naive Julie. Surprisingly, given their star status, it feels as though both aren’t on stage or given very much to do as they could have been. Both are stunning vocally, particularly during the gorgeous rendition of ‘If I Loved You’, but in terms of acting, their characters don’t feel as though they have been defined enough to make much of an impact – which is a real shame as there is potential there.
Boe plays Billy as a gruff and rough individual, someone who is careless about people’s feelings – but not necessarily without a conscience, despite his denial that he has no regrets and isn’t sorry for anything. At times he does perhaps look a little stiff and awkward but that could also be attributed to a character who is closed off from his feelings and doesn’t know how to handle people until he realises the effect this in turn has on his daughter.
Jenkins meanwhile is sweetly naive and delivers (of course) a strong vocal performance filled with emotion as heard during ‘What’s the Use of Wonderin” – but feels too meek and mild to make much impact in character – she needs a bit more confidence in her performance.
There are fabulous performances from Alex Young as the more confident and bubbly Carrie, who along with the fabulously hilarious Gavin Spkes as Enoch Snow delivers some light hearted relief that delights the audience – as seen in the scene in which Snow tries to break off his engagement with Carrie for example. There is also a nicely dry humoured appearance from Nicholas Lyndhurst as the Starkeeper which is enjoyable to watch and Brenda Edwards as Nettie is on strong form as Nettie.
Essentially, what Lonny Price does do with this production is celebrate the music beautifully, thanks mainly to the wonderfully rich performances of the ENO chorus and Orchestra, particularly during songs such as ‘June is Bustin’ Out All Over’ and ‘Stonecutter Cut it on Stone’.
The production could be snappier in pace and have more energy about it, but it is quite a sombre and thoughtful musical overall so this doesn’t trouble so much as the lack of definition in the characters – essential for the audience to fully engage their hearts and minds to it. One example where the production could be sharper is the build up to the burglary and the aftermath – which lacks in intensity and drama.
Overall, this is a production that celebrates the music rather than the story – but is still worth a visit for a variety of wonderful vocal performances, all of which are charming and engaging. Go and experience it yourself with an open mind and you won’t be disappointed.