Carousel is a truly iconic musical, one which simultaneously broke the established rules of the form, and raised the bar for all that followed. Rodgers and Hammerstein had already revolutionized musical theatre in 1943 with their first collaboration Oklahoma, giving us an opening scene of a lady on stage churning butter, being serenaded by an offstage voice, rather than the traditional chorus line. In 1945 they followed that up with a much darker story of Billy Bigelow, a carnival barker who at once wants to do the right thing by his young wife Julie, but at the same time always falls short. He is shown to be an abusive husband (making this a challenging show to stage in the #metoo / post-Weinstein age), and ultimately loses his life in a bungled robbery, leaving his wife alone to bring up their daughter. Hardly the traditional fare for 1940’s audiences. Couple that with the vocal and dramatic demands of the show – the intricately written 9 minute bench scene (If I loved you), Billy’s 6 minute Soliloquy, the magisterial You’ll never walk alone – this is a daunting challenge for any amateur theatre company to take on.
So congratulations to Trinity Players for their stirring production that gained a very warm reception from the first night audience this evening. First plaudits to Daniel Holyhead who celebrated recently becoming a dad for the first time by stepping in at 3 weeks’ notice (due to illness) to learn the role of the rather prissy Enoch Snow. He copes very well with the often demanding range of the songs, and his onstage relationship with Jessamy Ashton’s sparky Carrie Pipperidge is remarkably natural, given the short amount of time they’ve had working together.
Olivia Geldard possesses a suitably warm, relaxed mezzo for the role of Nettie Fowler, and delivers the showstopper You’ll never walk alone with great poise. Indeed that whole scene is particularly well handled, being allowed to playout very slowly and naturally.
As the central couple Naomi Keeley (Julie) and Matthew Collins (Billy) are very well matched. The Bench Scene is delightfully played with charm and humour, and the darker elements of the story are not shied away from in any way. Collins is the show’s stand out performer, and really inhabits the role with a brooding physicality. It is true that he does not possess the traditional rich baritone you normally expect from a Billy, but he more than makes up for that with his honesty and intensity.
However they nearly have the show stolen from them in Act 2 by the very striking appearance of Colleen Curran. Only 16, she dances and acts the role of their daughter Louise with great passion and intensity. It is no easy feat for such a young performer to carry the weight of the Act 2 Ballet, but Curran does this with ease. She is certainly a performer to keep your eyes on.
The excellent ballet was devised by regular choreographer Leigh-Ann James, and the very well balanced orchestra (how nice to hear a full string section for once!) was conducted by MD Peter Bushby. The show was directed, in his first show in the role, by Andy Weeks. I trust it won’t be his last foray into directing.
Carousel is on a Lichfield Garrick until Saturday 9th June.
Love Midlands Theatre
Sharing the latest theatre news and reviews around the Midlands.