Terry Wills reports on the Birmingham & Midland Operatic Society’s performance of Carousel.
19th April 1945 – the Majestic Theatre, New York. The premiere of’Carousel, a new musical written and composed by the legendary duo of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein.
It opened to rave reviews and was subsequently voted Greatest Musical of the Twentieth Century by Time magazine. It’s been seen and enjoyed down the years in all parts of the country and the latest production, by the Birmingham & Midland Operatic Society at the New Alexander Theatre, confirmed that it deserves every credit. The society, termed “Professional in all but name” (Centre Stage Magazine) did the show full justice from the opening scene, The Carousel Waltz, to the final stirring scenario as the full cast come together to sing the melodic, stirring You’ll Never Walk Alone.
For those that may not know the storyline, it’s a fantasy set in New England, 1912. Billy Bigelow, a touring carousel barker with an eye for the girls and little sense of responsibility sets his sights on Julie a naive local Mill worker. Love at first, a whirlwind romance, then shortly after marrying Julie finds herself expecting their first child. Billy, short on money and desperate to provide for his family, is persuaded to take part in a robbery of the mill owner. Tragedy then ensues when Billy is fatally stabbed during a fight.
His spirit guide Brother Joshua accompanies Billy to meet the Starkeeper. An offer to make amends for his life on earth and his treatment of Julie is made, and he returns to Earth to find an unhappy child who is very much like himself.
Does he succeed? No prizes for guessing the correct answer!
The two doomed principles, Billy and Julie, are played by James Gordanifar and Abigail Wells, ably supported by Nettie Fowler, Roy Cotterill, John Ryan, Chris Ranger, Michelle Worthington, Pat Pryce, John Spencer, and Elysia Stretton.
When Richard Rodgers was asked which was the favourite of his musicals, his answer was Carousel, adding “Oscar never wrote more meaningful or moving lyrics and to me, my score is more satisfying than any I have ever written.” And who am I to disagree? – especially as the rumbustrous June is Bustin’ Out All Over is one that always leads me joining in. Silently, of course!
The set, especially for the Carousel Waltz is vividly colourful. Every character brightly dressed is seen strolling along as Billy, displaying all his charm, attempts to persuade them to enjoy a ride on the carousel. And for a reprise You’ll Never Walk Alone, sung in splendid unison by the whole cast, leaves the audience justly applauding the finale of a very enjoyable evening.
This is the 127th BMOS musical company’s show (they were formed in 1886) and it bears comparison with any of their previous productions. Congratulations to all concerned. Now what have you planned for 2014?