Theatre Review: Carousel at the Barbican

Very fine production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s second musical, writes Jon Dean

�Carousel is the second musical by Broadway legends Rodgers and Hammerstein – a follow up to their hit debut Oklahoma!

It tells the story of the tragic romance between fairground worker Billy Bigelow and local mill-hand Julie Jordan.

Right from the off theirs is a troubled love, and even their first date results in both of them losing their jobs.

From there things don’t get any better and it’s a story of beatings, drinking, crime and violence. Despite the light relief provided by the endearing relationship of Julie’s colleague Carrie and local entrepreneur Enoch Snow, it’s fair to say Carousel is not the most cheerful of musicals.


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It’s a powerful production, the sets are fantastic and some of the singing is absolutely superb, as you would expect from a production by the acclaimed Opera North.

Stand-out performances by Michael Todd Simpson as Billy and Islington’s own Sarah Tynan as the coquettish Carrie, as well as the amazing orchestra make for an impressive show.

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The story itself seems slightly dated, both in pace and tone – not entirely surprising for something written in 1945.

Some of the songs are classics; You’ll Never Walk Alone and June Is Busting Out All Over being obvious examples. The razor sharp choreography and borderline breakdancing of the latter provides one of the jolliest moments of the show.

A few of the other numbers are less memorable and a bit drawn out – and with very little dialogue there are quite a lot of them to listen to.

That said, it’s a very fine production, and fans of Carousel will enjoy a bold new production by a forward-thinking company.

* Carousel is at the Barbican Centre in Silk Street, EC2, until September 15.

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