Regent's Park Open Air Theatre (venue)
11 August 2021 (released)
11 August 2021
'When you walk through a storm hold your chin up high' are the opening lyrics for ' You'll Never Walk Alone', and with an evening of threatening storm clouds the Company of Carousel danced and sang up a storm! With such a score of classic and soaring musical numbers from Rodgers and Hammerstein, this has always been a musical that is weakened by an story that skirts around important issues such as domestic abuse. But not in this exciting new version.
Timothy Sheader as director and Tom Deering as Musical Supervisor have taken these great songs and looked at how to put them into a context that has a far stronger resonance with our times. A sense of community that we have all become much more aware of as a result of the pandemic. Gone are the soaring strings and semi-operatic voices of the classic versions, and in its place are arrangements that encompass the sounds and qualities of a community brass band. Some of the keys in musical numbers have been changed to allow the performers to give much more character driven and tender interpretations of the Score. It shouldn't really work, but it so does.
Gone also is the smoltz of a Heaven and the stars, and the seemingly acceptable perpetuation of a male dominated society, where something like domestic abuse can be skirted over. This enables the later part of the show its most dramatic shift from the original. Not allowing Billy Bigelow( played strongly by Declan Bennett) any sense of forgiveness. Standing up to what is wrong in Society gives this version a different but equally moving end.
In shifting the location and using their own regional accents. There are moments where the lyrics (still centred in Maine, America rather than Northern England) seem at odds with the new location. However, this is counter-balanced with a revised book and musical arrangements that allow more humour and gritty reality to shine through the performances.
Even the Company of performers totally embody the spirit of community. With a number of them having to self isolate, there had to be some shifts within the cast for opening night. With Craig Armstrong taking on the part of Jigger, who he wasn't even listed to cover for. It was difficult to believe this wasn't the original casting. Stand out moments where, Joanna Riding's tender and haunting rendition of 'You'll Never Walk Alone' and Carly Bawden with 'What's the Use of Wond'rin?' Here Carly shows the complexity of loving someone she shouldn't but can't stop herself. She brought a new and crucial truth to that particular number. The entire company should be applauded for not only ploughing through an entire dance sequence when the heavens finally opened, but for each and every one of them bringing this new, exciting and thought provoking production to the fore. A Carousel that turns the tables on what you think the show could be. Take a ride you'll be challenged but never disappointed.