Carousel remains a timeless classic with a strong message of hope that still resonates in today’s world. No matter how dark or difficult life can be, there is always hope for a brighter future. Astwood Bank Operatic Society certainly brought that message loud and clear to a very appreciative first night audience!
David Steele (Billy Bigelow) led the cast with presence and charisma as the rough-talking Carousel barker. His voice was extremely well-suited to the lyrical songs of Rodgers and Hammerstein. Indeed, his performance of Soliloquy was a real highlight of the show. Performing alongside him was the equally talented Sophie Grogan (Julie Jordan) who put all she had into the role and gave an extremely emotional performance. She was able to show the turbulent journey of the character throughout the show and many a tear was shed when she began to sing You’ll Never Walk Alone and broke down on her cousin Nettie’s shoulders.
Great laughs were provided by Jo Hargreaves as Carrie Pipperidge. Her excellent comic timing gave us much-needed lighter moments in this dark storyline and she certainly delivered! A special mention must go to Michael Treagust (Enoch Snow). I learnt from the programme that this was his first ever part in a musical – I can assure you we would never have known! His assured performance gave us laughs and his confident singing voice suited Mr Snow’s character well. Will James was perfect as the mean and moody Jigger Craigin but also showed a lighter side, bringing out some more excellent comic moments.
I would have liked to have seen more of the story told through the extended sections such as the Prologue and the Ballet as I felt some of the meaning of these pieces was lost. I am also unsure as to the success of moving the action of Carousel to the 1950s as the final, emotional scene being played in a school gym lost some of the timeless magic. However, the projections were an excellent idea and Carole Massey’s production was full of both fun, laughter and pathos.
A wonderful orchestra accompanied the performance, under the baton of Musical Director Austin Poll. There was not one issue of the balance between voice and orchestra all night!
A large chorus (although there never seem to be enough men!) were well-drilled and added some great harmony singing to the larger numbers. However, a special mention must go to the small group of ladies, including Melanie Hart (Nettie Fowler) who performed the backing harmonies to What’s the Use of Wondering – a really poignant moment.
If the audience’s reaction was anything to go by, Astwood Bank Operatic Society should be proud of their achievement.
Carousel runs at the Palace Theatre, Redditch until Saturday 17th March.
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