Harpenden Light Operatic Society stage Carousel

IT is only fair to preface this review by confessing that I had never seen Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel before watching Harpenden Light Operatic Society (HLOS) perform it on Monday night.

And even worse, I had no idea that the famous Liverpool FC anthem You’ll Never Walk Alone had come from it – I always thought it sprung fully formed from the vocal chords of Gerry Marsden.

But I do know a good production when I see one and there is no doubt that HLOS knows how to put on a feelgood and rousing show.

The stage at the Eric Morecambe Hall in Harpenden is limited so all credit to HLOS for using it as effectively as they did, particularly in the opening fairground scene featuring the carousel in question.

And the sheer intensity of the principals and chorus, not to mention the children who took part, was a wonder to behold.

The premise of Carousel – how the irascible Billy Bigelow comes to realise how much he has lost on earth and thus is able to pass through the gates of Heaven – is twee on the face of it.

But HLOS director Sally Davis did not go down the maudlin route, choosing instead to concentrate on the life-affirming qualities of the show.

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The result is a rumbustious and very enjoyable production, boosted by some excellent principals and a dynamic and time-perfect orchestra led by musical director Beth Thomas.

Sam Gaines was clearly a popular choice as Billy going by the enthusiastic applause which greeted his solos and final bow. He combines a superb voice with strong acting skills and his on-stage relationship with both the plucky Julie – beautifully portrayed by Cheryl Evans – and the dastardly Mrs Mullin (Colette Eagles) is pivotal.

Lucy O’Hare gives a marvellously-comic performance as Carrie and is particularly strong in her duet with Ashley Mead’s Mr Snow, When The Children are Asleep.

Mary Watkinson as Nettie has a superb voice which comes to the fore with June is Busting Out All Over and Jonathan Field is a dastardly Digger.

The only scene which jarred slightly was the ballet on the beach 15 years after Billy’s death which is no reflection on the delightful dancing skills of Bianca Baikie’s Louise and Ollie Slade’s Carnival Boy but seemed slightly self indulgent and slowed down the pace rather too much.

But overall Carousel is a stirring show performed by an enthusiastic and talented cast – catch it if you can.

It runs in Harpenden Public Halls until Saturday with a matinee on Saturday afternoon and tickets priced �8 to �13 are available from hlostickets@live.co.uk or telephone 07817 331150.