Carousel at Bord Gáis Energy Theatre, Dublin review
This revival of the 1945 Rodgers and Hammerstein hit by Opera North is a massive production, involving over forty performers, an orchestra, a revolving set, trees flying in and out, and a shooting star. The big choral numbers all lift the roof.
However, to really go with the show you have to swallow the fact that Carousel is a wife beater’s charter.
Julie Jordan (Gillene Butterfield) romances and marries Billy Bigelow (Philip Rhodes), a fairground worker on the titular Carousel who cannot settle down to a proper job and the responsibilities of marriage.
We hear several times that he beats his wife, though he says he only did it once and Julie’s love is true and unquestioning. A key line in the second act is: “It is possible for someone to hit you hard and not hurt at all,” which Julie explains to her 15 year old daughter, as blossoms fall reprising a major romantic moment from the opening scene.
Her friend Carrie Pipperidge, played by Irish soprano Aoife O’Sullivan and her beau Enoch Snow (Joseph Shovelton) provide a superb comic vision of marriage, sung and played with charm and hilarity, as they are eventually followed round the stage by a parade of offspring.
Irish actress Michele Moran brings flinty fairground grit to the tough-nut part of Mrs Mullin. Yvonne Howard as Julie’s cousin Nettie leads a brilliant rendition of June is Bustin’ Out All Over, with a sly genteel lustiness.
The second act moves into more experimental dramaturgy, with a surreal plot twist involving a scene in heaven.
A full blown ballet segment provides Billy Bigelow with a fantastic vision of his daughter at 15. The final reprise of You’ll Never Walk Alone by the company is a roof raiser, and had the audience on their feet at the end.
Except the ones with the little niggle about the wife beating.