Carousel at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre
It’s always a pleasure seeing a revival of a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, and Carousel at Regent’s Park is no exception. The basic premise and the music are as intoxicating as ever and, coupled with a strong production by Timothy Sheader and some modern choreography by Drew McOnie, one can hardly avoid being drawn in in by the charm of this fine example from the golden age of musicals.
That’s not to say that the show is without its flaws – some of the lyrics and plot points do feel very much of their age, even as Sheader and McOnie do their best to give the premise a more modern twist. But timeless numbers, such as June Is Bustin’ Out All Over, Soliloquy and, of course, You’ll Never Walk Alone, demonstrate that Carousel can still be enjoyed by audiences of all sorts, especially when interpreted a strong cast.
Carly Bawden provides a powerful and believable performance as Julie Jordan, with an especially convincing, solid rendition of What’s the Use of Wond’rin?. Her chemistry with Declan Bennett as Billy Bigelow is memorable and leads to numerous heartfelt moments. Christina Modestou as Carrie Pipperidge and John Pfumojena as Enoch Snow impress, especially on a musical level, as the secondary couple in this performance.
The production itself features a simple set by Tom Scutt and some period costumes by Molly Einchcomb and Scutt, transporting the audience to a small fishing town’s carnival. With a few exceptions – such as carousel poles – the stage is largely empty and left to be filled by the cast’s allure. As is usually the case with the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, the evening hours provide their own excellent lighting source that is unique and fizzing with atmosphere; lighting designer Aideen Malone utilises it with an acute finesse that lends itself well to the ambience.
While Carousel at times feels a little uncertain or even confused regarding its message, this production demonstrates that it is still a highly engaging and entertaining musical that can impress audiences, with a beautiful score about the complications of love, responsibility and poverty. With a lovely venue and an engaging cast, this is a worthwhile production and deserves to be seen.
Photos: Johan Persson
Carousel is at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre from 31st July until 25th September 2021. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.