THE storyline to Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Carousel is dark enough to be an opera.
Death, loss, poverty, attempted murder and domestic violence all figure prominently.
But remarkably, it remains one of the most enduring and evocative musicals of all time.
A Broadway hit first performed in 1945, it was revived by Opera North at the Lowry and features some of the most moving and compelling music Rodgers & Hammerstein ever wrote, including ‘You'll Never Walk Alone’, ‘If I Loved You’ and the joyful 'June is bustin' out all over'.
Set in a small New England seaside community, Carousel is a story of true love and the tragedy of feelings left unspoken, as mill worker Julie Jordan falls in love with enigmatic fairground worker Billy Bigelow.
But after Billy attempts and fails to rob the wealthy mill owner, a desperate act that ends in tragedy, he is granted one last chance by a heavenly being.
American baritone Eric Greene, as Billy, was utterly authentic and brought a deep richness to the role.
Young British soprano Gillene Herbert, as Julie, portrayed just the right levels of spirit and vulnerability.
The production values were immaculate and the introduction on stage of the eponymous carousel was so spectacular it drew a spontaneous round of applause from the audience.
The songs were delivered with the skill and precision you would expect from an opera company and the dancers didn’t fail to deliver.
Of course, the key was always going to be the poignant moment when Nettie Fowler – played by Elena Ferrari – stands over the body of a dead Billy Bigelow and encourages Julie to keep going by singing ‘You’ll never walk alone’.
The song is so well known – and hijacked by football fans – there’s a risk it will take you out of the moment and off to the football terraces instead.
But such was Ms Ferrari’s emotion and control, there was hardly a dry eye in the house.
This was stunning performance from consummate professionals and it is easy to see why it has stood the test of time.