Pros: An all round great production of a loved musical, enjoyed by audience and performers alike.
Cons: The lighting was a little confusing at times, and perhaps the message of the show was a little laboured.
Carousel is no doubt a well-loved Rodgers and Hammerstein musical which has a history of fabulous revivals. Morphic Graffiti put on a show full of high kicks and high notes, with an enthusiastic cast not afraid to bring the out the joy in a show that left many with a weepy eye come the climax.
Gemma Sutton takes on the role of the queer one, Julie Jordan, who despite her sensible sensibilities falls for the bad boy Billy Bigelow, with hardly the fairytale ending. Sutton is a stunning performer and contrasts Tim Rogers’ Bigelow well, sparking a believable attraction. Rogers is certainly good looking enough for the role (when he took his top off there was a very obvious fidget from the ladies in the audience), though his presence as a misled rough ‘un with a deep drawl in his voice is what made him a pleasure to watch. However, the couple of the night is Carrie Pipperidge, played by Vicki Lee Taylor, and her cutie pie lover Mr Snow, played with a cheeky innocence by Joel Montague. Vicki Lee Taylor relishes the humour her character requires and when the two get together, it’s a love story without the adventure but with all of the adorable.
Choreography was key in depicting the contrast between the two couples: the stillness and tension between Julie and Billy and the skittish excitement between Carrie and her Mr Snow exaggerated in every scene in a way only a musical can get away with. The two love stories are a beautiful comparison and directed as such by Luke Fredericks.
Stewart Charlesworth delivered a double whammy of set and costume to the production and he definitely had fun with it! The introduction of the carousel itself was flamboyant and was a wonder to be revealed, my plus one whispering “it’s the Carousel!” as the set was manoeuvred into place. It bordered on confusing sometimes, but the lighting brought your eye to the right place at the right time almost naturally in the glittering space. The warehouse interior of the Arcola was taken full advantage of, as was every spare inch of the stage.
The live music was visible to the audience, as is often the case in fringe musical theatre. I found that the prominent harpist Alex Thomas’s playing was as engaging as the action, a wonderful side note during the spine tingling If I Loved You. Gorgeous… and something missed from the grander productions. Other eye catching performances came from Paul Hutton, moustache twitching in numerous roles and Amanda Minihan as Nettie Fowler, who twinkled as the audience laughed at her naughty antics, leading the mill girls into equal mischievousness.
This was a stunning production, music, performers, set and all.
Author: Rodgers and Hammerstein
Director: Luke Fredericks.
Production Company: Morphic Graffiti
Booking Until: 19 July 2014
Box Office: 020 7503 1646
Booking Link: http://www.arcolatheatre.com/production/arcola/rodgers-and-hammersteins-carousel