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A review by Vanessa Bunn for EXTRA! EXTRA!
In Rodgers and Hammerstein's classic, Carousel, Mrs Mullin's (Charlotte Moore) fairground ride sits at the crux of the action from start to finish. Workplace of tough lothario Billy Bigelow, (Sean-Paul Jenkinson) the carousel is a major attraction for the fair ladies of a lively seaside town who in turn, attract the young not-so-gentle-men. The opening scene is a delight, as the whole ensemble gather to introduce the convincing sense of community that remains intact throughout the production. Time and again the whole cast congregate to launch into upbeat and heart-warming melody's like “June is Bustin' Out All Over” and perform original dances by Agnes Le Mille, choreographed impressively to suit the Landor stage by Lainie Baird and Jodie-Lee Wilde.
Ebony Buckle plays Julie, the heroine of the show, and Billy's beloved. Their courtship is played out in tender and emotive exchanges underpinned by their respective performances of “If I Loved You”, the melody that comes to define their relationship when revisited towards the end of the production. With her marvellous voice and a sensitive, thoughtful approach to the role, Buckle conveys Julie's trials and tribulations in an understated, and thus, utterly affecting manner. Bigelow rather wears his heart, and temper, on his sleeve and his tetchy and bridled attitude is in direct contrast to Julie's.
Julie's best friend and closest confidante, Carrie (Chelsea Corfield), is at the comic centre of the show. Sincere and somewhat naïve, she is true to Julie and utterly true to herself. When her intended, Enoch Snow (Iddon Jones() arrives on the scene, she really begins to shine, and together they form a wonderfully mismatched comic pairing whose interactions sparkle. Jigger (Lee Dillon-Stuart) is another comic and diverting cast-member - ostensibly wayward and unsavoury, he is still endearing in his way and one believes that Bigelow finds him amusing company.
The music flows expertly through this production, played from two piano's chasing each other melodically around Richard Rogers' musical numbers. In some more energetic displays the cast clap and tap along to lustrous effect. The set, designed by Rachel Stone, is basic but very functional - the carousel ever present off stage left creates a sense of permanence, while a series of well-constructed steps provide scope for everything from Clam-Bake congregations to a viewing platform in the garden of heaven. The most impressive dance scene stars Louise Bigelow (Georgia Bevis) toward the end of the production. Elegant and poised, through dance she effectively translates to an enraptured audience all that her fifteen years have meant in terms of loneliness and anguish.
Carousel is for the most part a playful romp with a few contemplative moments such as when Bigelow, in a rare period of reflection, deduces that he and Julie are “a couple o' specks o' nothin'” relative to the big wide world. The controversial comments that this musical appears to make about domestic violence are somewhat played down in this production.
With a focus on the sense of community, friendship and fun in Carousel, director Jeremy Lloyd Thomas has led an enthusiastic cast in a heart-warming interpretation of what Richard Rodgers once described as his favourite of all the musicals he had composed.
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