The Theatreguide.London Review
Savoy Theatre Winter 2008 - Summer 2009
Oklahoma may be greater, The Sound of Music better known. But Carousel is surely the lushest and most romantic of Rodgers and Hammerstein's musical fables.
And it is the inherent power of the story and songs, along with some excellent choreography, that carry this revival, not anything special in the casting or performances.
This is girl-meets-bad-boy, girl-can't-reform-bad-boy, bad-boy-dies-but-gets-a-chance-to-come-back-and-make-it-right.
This is the one that ends with 'You'll Never Walk Alone' and half the audience in tears. And, along the way, this is the one with the Carousel Waltz, 'If I Loved You,' 'June Is Bustin Out All Over' and the ten-minute 'Soliloquy.'
The first indication that Lindsay Posner's production wasn't going to add much to the show came with the announcement that it was packaged as a starring vehicle for Lesley Garrett, because her role is the fourth or fifth in rank, the motherly background figure to the action.
Garrett does get to lead the Chorus in 'June Is Bustin Out' and share a duet of 'You'll Never Walk Alone.' But hers is essentially just an extended cameo.
But putting the star in that role meant that everyone else had to be cast so as not to steal her thunder, and the musical's actual leads are pleasant enough but not star quality.
Jeremiah James is appropriately macho and pugnacious-looking as Billy – he resembles a young Stacy Keach - but his singing is only adequate and his acting less.
He gets through the Soliloquy without disgracing himself, but it's a static audition piece, with no dramatic movement or growth to it.
Alexandra Silber is somewhat better as Julie - she sings rings around him in 'If I Loved You' - but she too is wooden, with the self-contained iciness of Stockard Channing (whom she resembles).
You have to move down to the third lead, Lauren Hood's Carrie, before you hit any real personality or stage presence.
And so, with leads who sing all right, more or less, but don't really draw you in to their story, it's left to Rodgers' rich music itself, and to the production, to carry the night.
And here more credit must go to choreographer Adam Cooper than to director Lindsay Posner, who tends too often to just plant his performers centre stage and have them sing out to the balcony.
Choreographer Cooper seems to bobble the ball at first, doing nothing with the Carousel Waltz. But 'June is Bustin Out' and 'Blow High, Blow Low' are lead-ins to energetic and imaginative big dance sequences.
And Cooper's exquisite version of the Act Two Dream Ballet could not possibly be better - and special praise to Lindsey Wise, who dances and acts it with heartbreaking beauty.
So go for the songs and the dances, and try to imagine that everything else is as fine as they are.
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