With its wife-beating antihero and early dramatic climax, it's no mean feat to make 'Carousel' a satisfying experience. Opera North's revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein's most operatic musical is richly orchestrated and vibrant – even if it doesn't capture all of its darker edges.
An impressive set featuring a lightbulb-lit timber carousel evokes an early twentieth-century New England with Technicolor vividness. The canny choice of a Golden Age film studio as Heaven's backyard echoes this – a glimpse of
a more open-minded place than the one inhabited by fairground barker Billy Bigelow and millworker Julie Jordan.
An imposing Michael Todd Simpson and feisty Katherine Manley make a good job of these tricky characters. The sense of a man with a poet's soul or a girl 'deeper than a well' isn't always there, but their 'If I Loved You' has you believing in love at first duet.
Jo Davies's production is generally stronger at spectacle than subtlety, a haunting ballet sequence aside. It blazes into life with each well-choreographed chorus number: hearing the music sung by such talented singers and played by a full-strength orchestra is a pleasure.
'June Is Bustin' Out All Over' is joyous, and although Billy's ham-dram death is disappointing, Yvonne Howard's gorgeous rendition of 'You'll Never Walk Alone' rescues it from football stadium banality and will have you choking back tears.
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