One of the joys of lockdown has been the opportunity to see shows that were missed due to timing or location. The enjoyment of these productions has been slightly bittersweet as theatres have remained dark and the industry has faced incredible hardship. However, the latest government announcement provides some hope for the future as audiences accustom themselves to social distancing, and producers figure out how to make it financially viable.
The Lincoln Centre’s 2013 production of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic Carousel seems appropriate in tone for the new normal with its hopeful rather than happy ending. The show is not without its issues for a contemporary audience, particularly in its handling of domestic violence, but the Lincoln Centre production celebrates the quality in Richard Rogers’ score and Oscar Hammerstein’s lyrics rather than attempting a radical revision of the work.
This semi-staged production directed by John Rando uses the limited space at its disposal well, as the cast weave amongst the lush 71-piece New York Philharmonic Orchestra, who are neatly conducted by Rob Fisher. The standard of the music is evident and, barring a couple of sync issues, the quality is excellent – although it makes you yearn to be in the Avery Fisher Hall in person to hear every musical nuance.
The cast are excellent with scene stealing turns from Jessie Mueller (who recently played Julie Jordan in the critically lauded Broadway revival) as Carrie Pipperidge and Daniel Danieley as her fish fragranced fiancé Enoch Snow. Kelli O’Hara brings her melodious voice to Julie Jordan exploring the subtleties of the character and imbuing her performance with an ever present sense of foreboding.
This feeling is enhanced by Allen Moyer’s set design, which sees Carousel horses float above the stage, and a giant wave dominate the scenescape at the back of the stage, seemingly about to crash. The ‘barihunk’ – or ‘hunkitone’ as he prefers – himself Nathan Gunn grows into the antihero role of Billy Bigelow but can’t quite pull off the character’s dangerous swagger. His rich baritone is well matched with O’Hara’s soprano and the two are wonderful when duetting about how much they don’t love one another (a favourite topic of Hammerstein’s!).
The zenith of the performance is the dream ballet – which resonated all the more due to the absence of dance elsewhere. Here Trude Rittman’s music (it was her, not Rodgers who composed for Agnes de Mille’s original choreography) soars under Warren Carlyle’s choreography which is superbly danced by New York City Ballet principal dancers Tiler Peck (playing Billy and Julie’s daughter Louise) and Robert Fairchild. In keeping with the rest of the production Carlyle’s choreography isn’t ground breaking but it fits well with this enjoyable interpretation of a classic piece of musical theatre. Carousel is available from http://lincolncenter.org/lincoln-center-at-home/show/rodgers-amp-hammerstein39s-carousel-250 until the 8th September 2020.
Reviewer: Clare Chandler
Reviewed: 17th July 2020
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★