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A reviews round-up for Carousel at the London Coliseum

Following in the foot-steps of the much lauded Gypsy and Sunset Boulevard, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classic musical receives a semi-staged revival at the London Coliseum under the direction of Lonny Price.

Much loved for its score, Carousel stars top selling recording artists Alfie Boe and Katherine Jenkins supported by the magnificent ENO chorus and orchestra.

Boe and Jenkins are at their best (and most comfortable) when singing, however Jenkins, who makes her theatrical debut, surprisingly outshines Boe whose credits include Les Mis and Phantom.

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Check out the round-up of reviews from The Guardian,The Times (paywall), Daily Telegraph, TimeOut, The Stage, Evening Standard, Financial Time and the Independent.

Carousel runs until 13 May 2017 at the London Coliseum.

REVIEWS ROUND-UP

STAR RATING The Guardian

“ENO’s semi-staged production, with a 42-piece orchestra conducted by David Charles Abell, is an impressive reminder of this show’s adventurousness”

“it is a pleasure to hear singers of the calibre of Alfie Boe and Katherine Jenkins in the lead roles and to luxuriate in a 42-piece orchestra bringing out the rich colours of Rodgers’s score.”

“Billy himself is the show’s problem: how do we warm to a man who abuses women? The opening sequence reminds us that he was the product of domestic violence. Boe also admirably conveys the character’s complexity, combining a bear-like roughness with hints of an underlying gentleness: the big switch in his soliloquy when he suddenly imagines what it would be like to have a daughter – “you can have fun with a son but you have to be a father to a girl”– is beautifully done. Meanwhile Jenkins’s Julie is no passive victim but a hard-headed realist who knows perfectly well what she is getting into: she renders her big numbers – especially What’s the Use of Wond’rin’ – with a rapt sincerity that perfectly conveys the confusions of love.”

“The only paradox about Lonny Price’s excellent revival is the use of the term “semi- staged”: it looks pretty complete to me. James Noone’s designs, projecting images of a New England fishing village on to a set of curved sails, have the subdued beauty of Andrew Wyeth’s paintings. Josh Rhodes’s choreography is a full-blooded affair, at its best in a hornpipe that the dancers perform with virile agility. The ENO orchestra, under the baton of David Charles Abell, also occupies a raised platform and becomes a visible part of the experience: even that over-used anthem, You’ll Never Walk Alone, is rescued from its football associations by our being able to see the accompanying harpist as well as hear the un-churchy voice of Brenda Edwards.”

Michael Billington, Guardian

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STAR RATING The Independent

“Boe strikes the one pose throughout and is capable of managing about three emotions singly, in a kind of crop rotation. I loved, by contrast, Katherine Jenkins. Her rapturously beautiful voice soars from the mezzo-like swimming cream of its lower register to the shiver-inducing silver of its heights. There’s a terrible dignity to the way she copes with being unable to stop loving a man whose pain she understands.”

“The almost excruciating loveliness of the score is brilliantly served by David Charles Abell’s symphony-sized orchestra. Recommended.”

Paul Taylor, Independent

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STAR RATING Time Out

“Musically stunning take on the classic musical, even if leads Alfie Boe and Katherine Jenkins aren’t the best actors”

“When [BOE] sings, it is sublime, a creamy wave that swallows the room whole. When he doesn’t… well, his intonation and American accent sounds like a stiffer Yogi Bear, which is funny but obviously a bit of a problem when you’re playing Billy Bigelow, the tragic antihero of one of the greatest musicals ever written.”

“Despite having virtually never acted before, [Jenkins is] actually okay in a breathy, slightly tragic-Monroe type way, but it’s a fairly low-key turn.”

“It’s a strange beast, by far the most awkward of the ENO’s musicals series. But certainly it is held back from collapse by the tremendous music and singing, even if the lack of acting chops noticeably sells short its most iconic number”

Andrzej Lukowski, TimeOut

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STAR RATING Evening Standard

“Alfie Boe and Katherine Jenkins show off their pipes but their relationship lacks chemistry”

Katherine Jenkins, making her stage debut, is demure and appealing as Julie Jordan. The part has limitations, but she’s plausible as a young woman seduced and then devastated by a reckless bad boy, and she sings ardently, albeit with a bit too much breathy vibrato.

As Billy Bigelow, the volatile fairground barker, Alfie Boe is able to show off his pure and potent tenor voice. But his acting is stiff, and we get a limited sense of his character’s violent transformations. 

“It’s billed as a semi-staged production, so there aren’t elaborate sets, yet the scale is still impressive. Josh Rhodes’s choreography is sharp, the chorus relishes the music’s sophistication and bright support comes from Alex Young and Derek Hagen, with Gavin Spokes especially good as Enoch Snow”

Henry Hitchings, Evening Standard

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STAR RATING The Daily Telegraph

“Katherine Jenkins and Alfie Boe rise to the Rodgers and Hammerstein challenge”

“As the ingénue Julie Jordan, [JENKINS] looks lovely and acts sweetly in a June Allyson girl-next-door way that never becomes simpering. Her singing is good too – both her big numbers, “If I loved you” and “What’s the use of wondering?” are shaped with warmth and feeling, though a fast vibrato creeps in whenever she puts pressure on the voice.”

“Looking like a greasy rocker dude – the sort of hopeless man that nice girls fall for – [BOE] gives an impressive performance, rising to the histrionic demands of his Act 1 soliloquy and making something genuinely poignant of his remorse beyond the grave. In this context, his voice and style sound almost too grandly expansive: he could dump the head mike and easily do it au naturel.”

“Alex Young and Gavin Spokes are a delight as Carrie and Mr Snow, and Nicholas Lyndhurst is piquantly understated as the supernatural Starkeeper. Brenda Edwards’s soul-inflected interpretations of Nettie’s “June is bustin’ out all over” and “You’ll never walk alone” were not to my personal taste.”

Rupert Christiansen, Daily Telegraph

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STAR RATING The Stage

“Carousel is a story of regret, longing and a desperately unhappy, doomed relationship. The ENO production is billed as a semi-staged version, but it might be more accurate to describe Lonny Price’s production as semi-acted.”

“Boe and Jenkins seem at cross-purposes, and not just in the mismatched aspirations of the characters they are playing. Jenkins’ sweetly earnest Julie Jordan feels stilted and awkward in her scenes, only relaxing when she can place her shimmering voice to the gorgeous service of songs like What’s the Use of Wond’rin.”

“Boe’s Billy Bigelow – burdened by a hairpiece that seems to be doing more acting than him – is wooden except for when he’s able to release that magnificent tenor, most notably in the celebrated Soliloquy in which he ponders the prospect of imminent parenthood.”

Mark Shenton, The Stage

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STAR RATING The Times

“Jenkins has it all . . . the looks, the voice and yes, she can act”

“She impresses in a beguiling if uneven show in which it is co-star Alfie Boe whose full-monty operatic singing is shown up by his narrow acting range.”

Dominic Maxwell, The Times

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STAR RATING Financial Times

“It’s a mixed ride. Musically, it may indeed leave you giddy: the orchestra’s handling of the score, under conductor David Charles Abell, is glorious — delicate, sweeping, witty. The singing of the ensemble in Lonny Price’s staging is rich and uplifting and the delivery of the two leads, Katherine Jenkins and Alfie Boe, soaring and vivid. But elsewhere it’s a stop-start affair with some of the acting almost as stiff as a merry-go-round horse.”

“Chief culprit, I’m afraid, is Boe. Saddled with a long wig, which makes him look more middle-aged rocker than bad boy, he looks out of sorts in the role. His voice is eloquent, pliant, towering and can transport you, but his acting is, by contrast, curiously rigid and he doesn’t find the complexities in this volatile character or convey his tormented mixed emotions.”

Sarah Hemming, Financial Times

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