"Catch Clapham's Cleverly Condensed Carousel"
by Johnny Fox for remotegoat on 09/07/11

Encouraged by the success of Pal Joey written with his late partner Lorenz Hart, Richard Rodgers persuaded his new collaborator Oscar Hammerstein also to use an anti-hero and even darker themes of corruption and redemption for Carousel.

Often lost in sugar-coated productions, the depth and intensity of relationships, and the struggle between doing right by your family and doing wrong to help them are brilliantly condensed in Jeremy Lloyd Thomas's impressive and intelligent production at the Landor.

Rodgers and Hammerstein toyed with the idea of writing an opera, and in Carousel they came close with soaring soprano solos and complex sung recitatives. Lloyd Thomas has wisely cast young actors with surprising power and range and the list of 'excellent voices' is long and the harmonies strongly delivered right from the opening vocalised Carousel Waltz.

Australian Ebony Buckle brings a studied coolness and sagacity to mill-girl Julie Jordan and covers 'If I Loved You' elegantly despite being obliged to climb the apple-crate mountain of Rachel Stone's nifty set. Her partner Billy Bigelow is played by Sean-Paul Jenkinson and he's almost a match for her vocally, although his technique is more perceptible and a slight rhotacism interferes with the well-energised 'My Boy Bill'.

They may be the leads, but the evening belongs to Chelsea Corfield and Iddon Jones as Carrie and Enoch Snow through whom Lloyd Thomas discovers more comedy than usually seen in Carousel, and saves the production from an over-reverent earnestness which sometimes infects this show. Corfield is a plus-size girl who so overshadows Jones that you might think Tracey Turnblad just hopped a bus from Baltimore to Maine, but they work beautifully together and Jones' singing is magnificent.

This is a cast largely drawn from recent graduates of Mountview Academy of Theatre, and steered by tutors like Lainie Baird who with Jodie-Lee Wilde create new choreography for the small stage.

There are no weak links in the ensemble chain, Lee Dillon-Stuart captures the essence of Jigger Craven despite his youth, and rather like a den mother, veteran Sue Kennet infuses Nettie Fowler with skittish warmth and a sensibly abbreviated 'You'll Never Walk Alone' which has real emotion in her cradling of the audibly weeping Julie and mercifully dispels the spectre of Lesley Garrett.

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