PUTTING on one of Broadway’s finest and most demanding musicals can be quite a gamble for an amateur group.
But it seems to have paid off for Littlehampton’s Stage-Door Theatre Company,
They produced Rodgers and Hammerstein’s lyrical treat Carousel at the Windmill Entertainment Centre last week and judging by the size and enthusiasm of the first night audience, it was a great success.
Yes, this show is a challenge. It tells a strong and tragic love story, developed musically in almost operatic style.
The memorable score – it includes the inspirational You’ll Never Walk Alone – comes complete with soaring solos, full-blooded choral numbers, energetic dances, ballets, recitatives and even a seven-minute soliloquy.
The latter item, in which the leading man contemplates his forthcoming fatherhood with both fear and joy, can be quite overwhelming for an audience encountering it for the first time.
It comes at a significant point in this deep, dark tale and fortunately, in Jamie Griffiths, the company had a young performer skilled enough to carry it off.
He was entrusted with the task of portraying Billy Bigelow, an out-of-work carnival barker who co-plots a robbery to raise money for his wife and baby and then commits suicide when it goes horribly wrong.
A braggart and a liar with a roving eye for the girls, Billy tries but fails to change his ways when he marries Julie, an innocent young mill worker in the New England fishing community where the story is set.
Jamie’s powerful performance, which peaked with that very moving soliloquy, emphasised some of the social issues of the piece, including domestic violence, physical and mental abuse and financial deprivation.
And since these are issues that can be meaningful for a modern audience, experienced director Meg Bray decided to follow the recent lead of Opera North and set the story in the 1930s, rather than the original 1890s.
With a matchless score at their disposal, musical director Malcolm Munro and choreographer Kim Merceta-Nash made the most of their important assignments.
And with Meg in charge of musical staging, there was excellent work from dancers, chorus and children.
Among the principals, Laura Thornett fitted snugly into the role of Bill’s grieving widow, while Scott Hudson cleverly showed the devious nature and crooked intentions of Jigger, Billy’s evil partner-in-crime.
Also paired, and most amusingly so, were Carrie-Louise Coates and Barry Tinkler, as Julie’s light-headed friend Carrie and starchy beau Enoch Snow.
Stevie Bennett exuded goodwill as Julie’s comforter Nettie, Claire Cossins proved colourful as the jealous carousel operator and Jessie Wong aroused sympathy as Billy’s tormented grown-up daughter Louise. Other parts were taken by Nigel Peacock, Eric Spencer, Lewis Bentley, Tom Baker, Callum Block and Emma Millard.