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Music: Richard Rodgers. Book & Lyrics: Oscar Hammerstein 2nd based on Ferenc Molnar’s play Liliom. Queensland Conservatorium Musical Theatre Production. Director: Brendan Ross. Musical Director: Matthew Samer. Princess Theatre, Brisbane, 22 – 25 May 2013.

Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel is considered one of the classics of the American musical theatre and quite possibly the best musical to emerge from their collaboration. If today it appears dated that’s because it is. Written in 1945, Rodgers’ music is as lilting as ever with Hammerstein’s lyrics as fresh as newly mown hay, but Hammerstein’s book, while ground-breaking in 1945, today seems morally heavy-handed.

The story of a New England carnival barker and his sweetheart and their relationship which included spousal-abuse and suicide was meaty stuff for musical theatre seventy years ago, but things have changed a lot since then.

The musical has never been easy to stage either with a naturalistic first act and a second that switches to fantasy midway through the act. Queensland Conservatorium musical theatre second year students did a creditable job in a production by Brendan Ross that was inventive and focused on the characters.

Madison Green was a sterling force in the lynchpin role of Nettie. Leading the chorus on “June Is Bustin’ Out All Over,” and “This Was Real Nice Clambake,” and soaring solo on the show’s classic anthem “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” her vocals thrilled. Lucy Clough’s warm soprano did justice to Julie’s songs with Gemma Hansom turning in a good performance as Carrie. William Bourchier as Mr Snow was vocally head-and-shoulders above his contemporaries, while Jack McGovern, with his slightly cockney accent, was a believable villain Jigger.

In the show’s pivotal role of Billy, baby-faced Jonathan Hickey was unfortunately miscast. His big-number “Soliloquy” lacked impact.

The whole production has been double-cast so that on alternate nights different performers will be playing the roles.

Helena Moore found some nice touches in her choreography, especially the Carousel effect during the opening “Carousel Waltz,” and the second act pas-de-deux for Louise. Matthew Samer and Luke Volker’s musical accompaniment on twin pianos was spare and at times, rote, but despite that, Rodgers masterful score still enchanted.

Peter Pinne         

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