Review: Carousel

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Leeds Grand Theatre

Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel may be as American as blueberry-pie, but in recent times its most successful productions have come from this side of the Atlantic and Opera North adds to that with a bright, vivacious and refreshing staging from Jo Davies. The score came as close to opera as Rodgers ever achieved. His picture of life in New England in 1873 is far removed from the happy-go-lucky musicals he had previously composed.

Davies updates her production to the early 20th century with visually attractive backdrops using the revolving stage that serves as the carousel in the opening scene.

The story begins with life viewed through rose-tinted spectacles as the pretty daydreaming Julie falls in love with the swaggering Billy, an easily angered fairground worker who has just given her a free ride on the carousel.

Bringing a new dimension to the original story is the casting of the American baritone Eric Greene, as Billy, his eventual suicide bringing the added poignancy of an impoverished black man thrust into a white society. His strong voice is a perfect foil for Gillian Herbert’s silvery soprano in their duet, If I Loved You, one of the many show-stopping moments. Claire Boulter is ideally cast as the charming scatterbrain Carrie, with her intended partner, the loveable Mr Snow, offering Joseph Shovelton a delightful cameo role.

The highly energized team of dancers, and the full operatic weight of the chorus and orchestra conducted by James Holmes, all add up to a very special Carousel.

To May 19.