Carousel at the Watford palace Theatre. A review by Michael Moore...

The Abbots Langley Gilbert and Sullivan Society have been part of the fixtures and fittings at the Watford Palace since 1960.

Renowned experts in their craft, their local reputation for Gilbert & Sullivan is arguably unrivalled. Imagine my surprise when I was offered a review opportunity to see ALGSS, and it was not a G&S?

Instead, they were staging Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel. Well, well, what strange occurrence can it be?

Strange perhaps, but welcome, and serves only to showcase the depth of talent that ALGSS have within the company, as well as demonstrating their responsiveness to changing tastes amongst the theatre going public.

To survive in these competitive times, amateur companies need to reflect upon their artistic offerings in order to maintain currency and viability.

The story of Carousel is one of tragedy but also of redemption, love and hope. Akin to a play with music at times, the piece is punctuated with scenes of just one or two actors, set amongst vibrant and often rousing full chorus ensemble numbers. 

Director Julia Rufey read the piece well with her direction capturing the full gamut of human emotion; from the despair of Julie, to the self-loathing of Billy and the blissful joy of love experienced by Carrie.

Ably supported by the terrific choreography of Dana Mistin and the punchy orchestra of Philip Joslin, the audience were treated to some quite superb singing and acting performances.

Coupled with the freshness and vitality of the young dancers and the beguiling Snow Children, the show had a lot to offer.

The principal line up was particularly strong. Jennifer Carr gave an increasingly intense and mature reading of Julie Jordan, with her sublime soprano voice caressing every syllable with genuine pathos. Russell Stratton’s clarion voice filled the auditorium, portraying the tortured soul of Billy Bigelow to great effect.  

In contrast to the seriousness of Julie, Carrie was dizty and fun, with Emma Stratton offering a tremendous characterization and vocal performance. Her scenes with David Sutherland (Mr Snow) were the highlight of the evening. Their intuitive connection, chemistry and comedy were quite delightful.

Special mention to Cheryl Aughton Clark (Nettie Fowler) who led a riotous and spirited June is Bustin’ Out All Over, whilst ensuring there wasn’t a dry eye in the house with her dignified rendition of perhaps Carousel’s most well know number, You’ll Never Walk Alone.

Praise to for Hannah Chapman who showed great promise and presence as troubled Louise Bigelow.

 A quality production and one which hopefully marks the beginning of more forays into alternative repertoire at the Watford Palace in future seasons for this talented company.

Watford Palace Theatre, 20 Clarendon Road, Watford, WD17 1JZ. Details: 01923 225671