Well, I see that both of those were done by New York City Center - I bet you were there, Jon!
As for A Connecticut Yankee
, I didn't know that To Keep My Love Alive
came from it or indeed that the show was by Rodgers and Hart. (Actually, I tend to think of Busy Doing Nothing
, which I know neither of them had a hand in!)
Anyway, I went to see Opera North's Carousel
at Leeds Grand Theatre on Tuesday. The cast are mostly opera singers and I'm pretty certain that there wasn't any amplification (the sets were mostly enclosed). There are 17 performances in Leeds, then six in Manchester, then a gap until August 15 when there will be thirty-five at the Barbican in London (until 15 September). There was a full house and a lot of enthusiasm. The conductor was James Holmes who's conducted various lightish works by Weill, Sondheim (and Shostakovich), as well as quite a few operas, for the company - I think you had some correspondence with him, Jon?
Anyway, I generally enjoyed it, especially the well-known songs, though neither the Soliloqy nor the lengthy ballet are my cup of tea, and I really dislike works where people come down from heaven - though John Woodvine was an excellent choice as the Starkeeper. If I was programming a R&H musical, I'd go for South Pacific
George Hall in The Guardian
gave it a rave review: http://www.guardian.co.uk/stage/2012/may/07/carousel-opera-north-review
Geoff Brown in The Times
gave it the thumbs down; I hardly agreed with anything he wrote (maybe he got out of the wrong side of the bed), but here it all is:
"Rodgers and Hammerstein's 1945 hit Carousel must have appeared a tempting prospect for Opera North, a company with a strong record of mounting musicals. Those memorable songs! The tragedy, the comedy, the emotional uplift! Rodgers himself thought the score brought him the closest to a "proper" opera. No wonder Opera North with Jo Davies, director of their Ruddigore revival, went ahead with panache. Good intentions; but not an unqualified success.
Eric Greene is a rising American with a warm baritone and a pleasant presence, but he had scarcely more than two weeks to master the lead role after Keith Phares withdrew through illness. Sonorous but dramatically fuzzy, Greene's performance on opening night suggested that Billy Bigelow, the quick-tempered carnival barker with a habit of giving his women the slap, wasn't yet under his thumb.
Before that fuzziness became apparent, there were Anthony Ward's skeletal settings to worry about. Eventually a carousel's outline appeared; Davies's directing skills kicked in; Billy and nice girl Julie got hitched; and the plot of Molnár's Hungarian play Liliom rolled out like a familiar, stained carpet. Yet Ward's boxy wooden walls and reduced-price Americana remained a bother, especially once we reached Heaven's antechamber, shimmering with the joy of a doctor's waiting room.
Greene's Bigelow didn't get easier, either; though that's partly the fault of Molnár and Hammerstein's libretto. Play the character pugnaciously, as Gordon MacRae did in the Hollywood musical, then audience sympathy may drain away. But if Bigelow's pugnacious streak is soft-pedalled, the plot doesn't make sense. Greene spent so much of Act I being melodious and agreeable that when surliness eventually entered, I didn't believe him.
Still, the lovely music, robed in Don Walker's brilliant orchestrations, is dashingly delivered by the Opera North Orchestra and their conductor, James Holmes. None of the players, thank goodness, pays close attention to Hammerstein's fake New England dialect, so Gillene Herbert's Julie and Claire Boulter's Carrie sing out in the reliable English way, sweet and strong.
Boulter's Carrie is full of character, while Joseph Shovelton is ingratiating as her hubbie, Mr Snow. Julie's radiant loyalty and inner strength prove more elusive, but for the play's sake we take it on trust.
Elsewhere, Elena Ferrari blazes through June is Bustin' out all Over, Michael Rouse is properly sleazy as Jigger, the show's bad penny; and, if the ballet remains a drag, Kim Brandstrup's choreography makes the drag bearable. You'll Never Walk Alone left me cold as a fish; but that's my problem."