Milton Keynes Theatre
13 October 2008
Carousel spins on and on and on ....
I was brought up on the film Carousel, and have seen and enjoyed it immensely quite a few times on the stage, but I can’t for the life of me remember it being this long!
Time Magazine called it "the best musical of the 20th century", and while I feel that this is going a bit far, I have always liked that fact that in dealing with the doomed attraction of Julie Jordan for Billy Bigelow, the story moves away from the frothy romantic comedy much loved at the time, and deals with issues like domestic violence, all set against a fabulous Rodgers and Hammerstein score and lyrics.
It may just have been a bad night, but in Lindsay Posner’s production I found myself shifting about in my seat very early on. Billy and Julie must have been sitting on a bench for a good 40 minutes falling in love – a short amount of time in real relationship terms, but in musical theatre ones, interminable! “If I Loved You” is a beautiful song, but I just wanted to shout “get on with it” and became convinced that either previous productions must have cut bits, or that these two were dragging it out unnecessarily.
I have to say though, that the singing and dancing in the show, with choreography by Adam Cooper, was top notch. Jeremiah James as Billy and Alexandra Silber as Julie had strong voices and of course you can’t fault Lesley Garrett - it was just the bits in between that seemed to drag!
Nevertheless up until Billy’s early demise, the plot is at least believable and in many ways timeless. It’s after the wonderful “You’ll Never Walk Alone” that things go awry. I never really understand why Billy does what he does and his return to earth seems pretty pointless. But it’s the dream-ballet that really grates. I know that they were de rigueur in films at that time, but it seemed to last for an eternity and I think that it really could be dropped in this day and age – even if it’s choreographed by Cooper - sacrilege I know!
The highlight of the show for me was Nettie singing “You’ll Never Walk Alone”. It’s long been a favourite for many reasons – not all of them footballing ones – and a soloist sang it at my wedding so I always look forward to this moment in the show. To have Lesley Garrett singing it was a bonus, my only criticism being that it was very short. I think they could have doubled it, and cut some of the ridiculous clam bake stuff instead!
Garrett herself pours her heart and soul into the role of Nettie, it’s just a shame that it’s such a small part. But it does have the best song, and you could tell that she also thoroughly enjoyed “June is Bustin’ Out All Over” with the accompanying chesty dance moves – possibly a homage to her Strictly Come Dancing days!
All in all, I’m really not too sure how to some up the production. The score is fab, the singing and dancing is great – it’s just about half an hour too long. But if you can handle that, then it’s absolutely fine!