Date 14th March 2018
Society Astwood Bank Operatic Society
Venue The Palace Theatre, Redditch
Type of Production Musical
Director Carole Massey
Assistant Director Bev Hatton
Musical Director Austin Poll
Choreographer Kirsty Hendry and Carole Massey


Author: Andy Brown

Carousel, the second musical from the Rodgers and Hammerstein II collaboration, contains show stoppers from the start to finish.  Opening on Broadway in 1945 followed by the West End in 1950 the show remains a popular choice. The show was however somewhat different for Ashwood Bank Operatic Society who have, since 1950, tended to present light operatic works such as Gilbert and Sullivan, so well done from the start for taking this production on.

As always with a large show it is not possible to name every member of the cast. The carousel barker – Billy Bigelow was played by David Steele. Having heard Steele in the past it was no surprise to hear him sing with gusto throughout. His rendition of the ‘Soliloquy’ was nothing less than outstanding and one of the highlights of the whole show. He played the part with conviction showing the character who tried to change for the better but found himself on the carousel of life.  

Other members of the cast also delivered powerful performance as well as songs. Not least Sophie Grogan as Julie Jordan and Jo Hargreaves as Carrie Pipperidge singing songs such as ‘Mister Snow’ and ‘If I Loved you.’ Sophie gave an emotional performance leading to ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ and at the end of act two when she realised that Billy was present at their daughter’s graduation. Jo had some of the more comic moments such as when she was explaining her attendance at a show in New York and learning self-defence advice from Jigger!

Michael Treagust, in only his second show and his first principal role, gave a confident performance as Enoch Snow as did Jigger played by Will James.

As is all too often these days the male chorus was not large however they manged numbers such as ‘Blow High, Blow Low’ well. The female chorus was larger and together delivered ‘What’s the use of Wond’rin’ well together.

There were other notable performances from Melanie Hart as Nettie Fowler, Jean Chalk as Mrs Mullins and David Ballard as Starkeeper/ Dr Seldon. These along with Alison Medway as Heavenly Friend, Jacob Finch as Enoch Jr and JJ Walsh as Mr Bascombe made for a performance the society should be pleased with.

Finally, well done to Kirsty Hendry who along with Carole Massey provided the choreography as well as playing Louise and performing the ballet scene.

Rather than set in the 1870’s the action took place in the 1950’s onwards. This more modern interpretation of the show was understandable in relation to the heavy costumes required for the more traditional setting of the show. Added to this was back projection to replace most of the set. These enabled the cast to have a full stage throughout and reduced time in changing the set.

The final scene however with projection of a sports hall and a basket ball net did not have the same feel as the more traditional graduation scene at the turn of the centenary.  In addition, the meaning of a couple of scenes was slightly lost. For example, the prologue where there were only a few fair ground show people and the ballet which may have lost some of the message it was designed to portray.

The music was under the direction of Austin Poll with a total of 14 musicians. The music was well balanced with the singing on stage and was full of the charm the score provides throughout the whole production.

The sound was well balanced enabling the principals to be heard clearly whether during dialogue or musical numbers.

Overall an enjoyable evening which, I am sure, had members of the audience singing to themselves the fabulous songs while they wiped away that odd tear the show always brings. Congratulations to Carole Massey, Bev Hatton and the whole team.

Thank you to all at Astwood Bank Operatic and look forward to your summer concert – Cox and Box and The Zoo followed by The Mikado next year.