Review Roundup: CAROUSEL at Arcola Theatre
Morphic Graffiti presents a bold new interpretation of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Carousel, which opened last night at Arcola Theatre and runs thru July 19. Gemma Sutton stars as Julie Jordan with Tim Rogers as Billy Bigelow. Let's see what the critics had to say:
Mark Valencia of whatsonstage: The decision to play Julie as someone desperately low in confidence was a brave one, yet Gemma Suttonis magnetic in her stillness. When she says "last Monday he hit me" as a quiet aside it feels like a kick to the solar plexus - not least because it's the last thing you expect to hear from a sweet young newlywed in what up to now has been a carefree musical. Sutton and Rogers are a plausibly complex pair of lovers throughout, their undulating moods as unpredictable as their relationship, so that even during the sentimental finale we're able to believe in the couple's tangled life and after-life.
Fiona Mountword of the Evening Standard: Never has Carousel (1945) seemed so fresh and poignant and vital, but on a scale that is profoundly human... Proud's choreography is consistently joyous and even pulls off the almost impossible task of making that hard-work second-half ballet scene appear essential rather than inevitable... The fiery intimacy of the relationships, both romantic and platonic, is minutely conveyed; the slightest flicker passing across the countenance of the fascinatingly soulful Sutton speaks eloquently of Julie's loyalty and fear... At £21 per ticket, this is surely one of the best theatrical deals in town.
Jane Shilling of the Daily Telegraph: Everything about Fredericks's production pulsates with intelligence and focus, from the women's limp homemade dresses, to the dangerous energy of Lee Proud's choreography, in which festivity constantly trembles on the edge of violent chaos. Valerie Cutko gives a beautiful, tragic cameo as the carousel owner, Mrs Mullin. Tim Rogers as Billy and Gemma Sutton as his sweetheart, Julie, are affecting, while Vicki Lee Taylor and Joel Montague, daringly parading his substantial person in tight white pants, are engaging as Julie's best friend, Carrie, and her fiancé, Enoch Snow.
Tom WIcker of Time Out: Rogers's believably frustrated Bigelow clings angrily to his outsider status while showing flashes of tenderness during the touching 'Soliloquy'. And he and Sutton are wonderfully tentative and uncertain in their wistful opening duet 'If I Loved You'. Bigelow's violence towards Jordan is one of the most troubling aspects of 'Carousel'. But Fredericks never even remotely romanticises the wife-beating on stage. Bigelow's literally heaven-set quest for redemption in the second half feels absolutely necessary.
Mark Shenon of The Stage: Here, the drama of Hammerstein's book can be played out with unforced naturalism, and Rodgers' alternately vivacious and haunting melodies emerge, without amplification, organically from the action and the superb actors. Lee Proud also does wonders choreographically in such a small space to animate it with rousing production numbers and an evocative dream ballet... A great deal of care and love is shown for the material, with performances of aching sincerity and wonderment from Gemma Sutton and Vicki Lee Taylor as the two millworker friends whose marital lives have such different outcomes. Tim Rogers gives a stunning account of Billy Bigelow's Soliloquy that reveals the tender heart behind the troubled man. A terrific five-strong band, led from the piano by Andrew Corcoran with a rich harp provided by Alex Thomas, adds musical muscle to a stunning evening.