Review of 'Carousel'


Carousel is the story of a young woman, Julie Jordan, who falls for a Carousel barker Billy Bigelow. Billy has just lost his job and Julie loses hers when she begins her relationship. After marrying Billy begins to be abusive towards Julie but when she tells him she is pregnant he is determined to provide for his family, agreeing to rob a wealthy local businessman.

Not exactly a “fun” musical and quite a surprise to me not having ever seen it before. I have seen other Rodgers and Hammerstein productions such as Oklahoma!, The Sound of Music, and The King and I but Carousel is the most hard-hitting of the lot dealing with domestic abuse and violence in a frank and open manner. This is not a story that ends well which is another departure from their other musicals. The musical does tend to drag on towards the end of the first act and throughout the second with only a few big show-stopping numbers (and in this production the carousel only makes a slightly abstract appearance in the second half). The music is, as you would expect, great with several songs that most will already be familiar.

The production in the Open Air Theatre is, as always, first rate with incredible performances from the main cast particularly the vocal talents of Joanna Riding as Nettie Fowler whose strong “You'll Never Walk Alone” and “June is Bustin' Out all Over” really demands attention. The delicacy of Carly Bawden's voice as Julie particularly when she sings “If I Loved You” with Declan Bennett as the charming Billy is particularly angst-ridden particularly in light of where the story goes. Bennett's Billy is perhaps a bit too charming whose turn for the worst is slightly hard to believe.

The stage for the performance is included at a 45 degree angle towards the back of the arena with a central round section cut out and horizontally levelled so the orchestra play under the cover of the back of the stage but are visible throughout the performance. The round section has a turntable which, slightly distractingly, turns very slowly throughout the show. The angled surrounding stage is frequently used by the performers to climb up and over which must be a bit tricky to negotiate when it gets wet…There is even one time when a performer repeatedly tumbles down (intentionally!)…

A dark and challenging but beautifully staged musical in wonderful surroundings with some wonderful vocal talent.

Rating: “Really good but I have some issues”

Review Date: 2021-09-14

Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre

Location: London (England)

Address: The Regent's Park, Inner Cir, London NW1 4NU ENGLAND

Public Transport: TUBE Baker Street

Telephone: +44 (0) 333 400 3562


The Open Air Theatre is located in Regent's Park on the “Inner Circle” road (follow the signs), nestled in the trees. The theatre seats more than 1,000 people and shows productions throughout the summer months with a surprisingly varied repertoire. The shows generally have high production values and are very professional.


There is a bar and food on site under the seating area (so dry in rain) along with a picnic area which often serves barbecue dishes as well. The shows generally go on whatever the weather but if they are forced to cancel the show you are offered tickets for a later date (remember to pick up an application on your way out).

Bar/Dining Area