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BARBICAN LIFE


Mademoiselle Julie


The remainder of this survey of the forthcoming season must be given to the new interpretation of “Carousel” by Opera North for their first long run at the main Barbican Theatre from August 15th. In recent years the acceptance of “musicals” as a serious contribution to the world music scene has resulted in a number of opera companies bringing these works into their repertoire. At first many operatic voices proved totally wrong to be used in musicals but gradually their range has been extended. Certainly performing arts schools such as LIPA in Liverpool and the Guildhall here in the Barbican have helped develop talent to be able to tackle the singing and acting requirements of modern theatre. The whole musical theatre repertoire has yet to be properly exploited beyond the obvious works by Sondheim, Gershwin, Kern, Rodgers and Berlin.


Carousel


“Carousel” is based on Ferenc Molnar’s play “Liliom”, moving the action from Budapest in 1919 to New England in 1885. “Liliom” was produced in London at the Duke of York’s Theatre in 1926 with Ivor Novello, Fay Compton and the first professional appearance of Charles Laughton, fresh from RADA. In spite of Komisarjevsky’s brilliant production this was a total failure even though it had been successfully produced by the New York Theatre Guild in 1921. The Guild’s success with Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma!” led them to suggest that the Hungarian background, carnival setting and excursions into


ime and again, I would try to say All I’d want you to k


now.


If I loved you, W ‘R


ords wouldn’t come in an easy way-


ound in circles I’d go!” At the first run-through of the musical Rodgers spotted Ferenc Molnar on the back row, a coat draped round his shoulders and a monocle in his right eye. At the end Lawrence Langner of the Theatre Guild walked them back to meet him and he said “What you have done is so beautiful. And you know what I like best? The ending.”


fantasy made it ideal for musical adaptation. But Rodgers and Hammerstein did not consider it feasible for musical treatment in the political climate of 1945. However, one day they sat down and composed the “Soliloquy” and Rodgers wrote in his autobiography that “we then knew we had the play licked”. Oscar Hammerstein went directly to the text of the original play and caught (in ten minutes) the mood of the awkward, hesitant lovers trying to express their feelings: “If I loved you, T


I well remember the First Night when “Carousel” succeeded “Oklahoma!” at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane on 6 June 1950 and ran for sixteen months. It had a mixed reception from critics and theatregoers who found the second half’s sentiment rather too cloying for their taste. This is when the murdered Billy Bigelow visits the Star-keeper in Heaven where he steals a star to give to his unhappy daughter. Thus the tragedy of Molnar’s play is dispelled in the musical by love and forgiveness. I remember discussing a possible revival of this musical with Cameron Mackintosh. We thought the rather maudlin scenes in Heaven might be lightened if the Star-keeper could be played by Max Wall; but the idea was never exploited further. However, the magnificent score has ensured the continued success of this musical with the wealth of melodic invention in the Carousel Waltz prologue followed by “You’re a Queer One, Julie Jordan” and “Mr Snow”. These numbers accomplish in minutes of musical terms, like mini-operas, which took Molnar pages of text to evoke. There are two wonderful production numbers in “June is Bustin’ Out All Over” and “This Was a Real Nice Clambake”, the touching “What’s The Use of Wond’rin’” and then “Soliloquy” which lasts seven stunning minutes. In his autobiography Richard Rodgers cited “Carousel” as his favourite of all his musicals: “Oscar never wrote more meaningful or more moving lyrics and to me my score is more satisfactory than any I’ve ever written. The whole play is beautifully written and tender; it still affects me deeply every time I see it.”


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