South Downe Musical Society return with Rodgers and Hammerstein’s wonderful Carousel at Ferneham Hall this week.
John-Paul McCrohon’s production starts with something new; we see Julie and Carrie at work in the mill before their escape to the carousel. The creativity of this new beginning is undermined by the somewhat pedestrian playing of the divine Carousel Waltz by Alan Pring’s band.
Local theatre companies often fall into the trap of performing these classics stereotypically, over and over again. McCrohon appears to have encouraged thought, individuality and creativity in his cast, the principals here being generally good.
As the unlikeable ne’er-do-well, Billy, Nick Williams takes the surface arrogance and gives it a reason and a softer edge. The biggest caricature in the piece, Carrie (Kelly Fuller), is also coloured with more reality than usual. Alan Jenkins does good work as baddie Jigger and Jane Pegler’s You’ll Never Walk Alone is understated, underplayed and just plain gorgeous.
As Julie, Becky Musgrave gives the performance of the evening, striking inflections that give subtext and real feeling. Sweet vocals, too. Good stuff.
The ensemble, however, need more life, conviction and precision in the singing; there were muffed cues a-plenty on opening night along with frustrating and repeated issues with the sound.