For fans of traditional musical theatre, when one of the classics is revived there is always a mixed set of emotions and the hope that the production will fulfill a desire to see a renowned work staged to perfection, writes Nicky Sweetland.
Many of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals have lost favour with modern audiences, with their hammy stories and traditional music at odds with what is now expected from an all singing all dancing stage spectacular.
It is therefore a brave producer who takes on one of the oldest and best loved shows, but following the success of the semi staged versions of Sweeney Todd and Sunset Boulevard (which starred Glenn Close) in conjunction with the English National Opera (ENO), the partnership of Michael Grade and Michael Linnit decided to add Carousel to their list.
Casting two world famous singers in the leading roles has helped to boost the profile of the show, with former English National Opera principal Alfie Boe and renowned soprano Katherine Jenkins drafted in to ensure audiences would flood to the London Coliseum.
Making the show semi-staged also gives the director Lonny Price license to allow the music to be the most important part of the production, but within that remit, his version of Carousel has become a bit confused. This rendering of the tale of youthful love, loss and regret is neither concert nor theatrical show and unfortunately doesn’t have a good fit in either school.
Yes, the music is sensational and the 40-piece ENO orchestra is magnificent, as is the ensemble, but apart from that, the production falls flat and completely fails to deliver the highly emotional storyline.
Boe is dragged down by a road-kill-like hairpiece, which seems to have more life than that of his character and although Jenkins does her best in her stage debut, her Julie Jordan lacks depth and is too polished.
Gavin Stokes and Alex Young seem to ignore the concert structure and thankfully enter into the spirit of the piece with gusto, while the ensemble admirably convey the youthful exuberance, which is missing from the principal cast.
Worth a listen but not necessarily a look, this version of Carousel would have been better off being performed as just a concert.