CAROUSEL has a new Billy Bigelow

On Wednesday night 18 August The Production Company premiered “CAROUSEL – A Concert” as the second musical for its 2004 season.

There are two factors that make this production special:

1. It is the first professional presentation of what is probably Rodgers and Hammerstein’s finest collaboration to be seen in Melbourne since the original full stage production premiered at The Princess Theatre , Melbourne on 5 June 1964.

2. David Campbell as Billy Bigelow.

For reasons unknown, Cameron Mackintosh withdrew a planned production of his acclaimed National Theatre production of “Carousel” for Melbourne a number of years ago. Reasons rumoured for pulling the production were related to casting problems, others were financial. In any case the production never happened.

While the current Production Company limited engagement of 5 performances is certainly no replacement for a full production of the National Theatre standard, it fulfils a need to share this musical with a new generation musical theatre audience.

The choice of David Campbell to play the role of Billy Bigelow was a natural. You could be excused for thinking that David Campbell grew up in New York City and spent every Saturday afternoon at a Broadway matinee. His love and appreciation of American musical theatre repertoire is overwhelming, considering he was born and bred in Australia. One of David’s earlier one-man shows “A Kid Inside” was a valentine to New York and his romance with Broadway musicals. Campbell brings a youthful vitality with a soaring voice to the role of Billy in a performance that would be as strong on Broadway today as Hugh Jackman’s in “Oklahoma” and “The Boy From Oz”.

“Carousel” is a period piece that asks us to hold on to our personal values, hopes and dreams. We are told not to be afraid of anyone or anything and “keep your chin up high”. How many of us need to be reminded of that each day as we are bombarded with the commercial values of life through peer pressure, mass media advertising and news reporting? Of the hundreds of musicals that have been written since the past century, certain shows stand out as unique in their contribution to changing or enhancing our lives. These shows challenge both form and society and still achieve their primary goal: to entertain. CAROUSEL is one of these shows along with SHOWBOAT, MY FAIR LADY, WEST SIDE STORY and LES MISERABLES.

As usual the compressed rehearsal period, scripts down, limited performance regime of The Production Company still leaves a lot to be desired. But the quality of the ensemble performance shines through in what is a probably one of the best and most important choices made by this enterprising organisation to date. Without this organisation we would not have had the opportunity to hear the incredible voices of Danielle Barnes as Julie Jordan, Carrie Barr as Carrie Pipperidge, Melissa Langton as Nettie Fowler and Adam Murphy as Jigger Craigin.

It’s time for Cameron Mackintosh to re-consider presenting that National Theatre production down-under.

CAROUSEL: August 18 -21, 2004 – State Theatre, The Arts Centre, Melbourne Australia

Music by Richard Rodgers; book and lyrics by Oscar Hasmmerstein II; Direction by Gary Young; Choreography by Andrew Hallsworth; Conductor and musical director, Guy Simpson; Orchestra Victoria; Set and Costume design by Richard Jeziorny; Lighting design by Chris Paterson; Sound design, Julian Spink for Sound System; presented by the The Production Company. At the State Theate, The Arts Centre, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

WITH: David Campbell (Billy Bigelow), Danielle Barnes (Julie Jordan), Carrie Barr(Carrie Pipperidge), Melissa Langton (Nettie Fowler), Adam Murphy (Jigger Craigin), Derek Taylor (Enoch Snow), Anne Wood (Mrs Mullin), Terence Donovan (The Starkeeper) and Louise Bell, Nicholas Cannon, Lucy Durack, Lucas Glover, Katie Houghton, Dena Amy Kaplan, Annabel Knight, Andrew Koblar, Tanya Mitford,Bessie Nassiokas, Peter Nicholls, John Peek, Gorgi Quill, Matthew Robinson, Eliza Tarpey, Sophie Viskich, Andrew Waters, Stephen Wheat.

© Henry Sachwald 2004

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