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Take a spin on this superb Carousel

PUBLISHED: 13:51 11 December 2008 | UPDATED: 17:23 16 August 2010

IT must be hard in these cynical times to produce a sentimental musical that diverts the audience s attention from a world-weary story of love and regret and directs it to the technical sophistication of the show, writes Melody Foreman.

IT must be hard in these cynical times to produce a sentimental musical that diverts the audience's attention from a world-weary story of love and regret and directs it to the technical sophistication of the show, writes Melody Foreman.

But this was achieved at The Savoy Theatre when Rodgers and Hammerstein's classic Carousel filled the stage with dynamic choreography and fantastic special effects.

The production team behind this show, directed by Lindsay Posner, included Adam Cooper (choreographer), William Dudley (set designer) and Peter Mumford (lighting designer).

At times it was like sitting in the cinema as the cycloramas on each set were magnificently real, luminous and transparent all at once.

The opening set, for instance, was of the carousel, spinning ferris wheel, and a dozen busy carnival people bringing life to the stage.

And so we meet chief barker, the girl-friendly Billy Bigelow played by a muscle-bound Jeremiah James who takes off with the hapless Julie Jordan (Alexandra Silber) and leaves behind the only job he's cut out for.

The couple sing a love duet, If I Loved You, which was heartily applauded, along with the previous song, Mister Snow, performed by Julie and her impish pal, Carrie Pipperidge, played by Lauren Hood.

These key moments in the production were serenaded by a wonderful sight of a moon shining on a shimmering sea and then we are transported to scene three of Act One which hosts Nettie Fowler's spa on the ocean front.

Enter the legendary soprano Lesley Garrett as La Fowler, who lets us hear her buoyant rendition of June Is Bustin' Out All Over.

This is followed by much dancing and the Blow High, Blow Low number performed by Billy, his friend the dodgy Jigger Craigin (Graham MacDuff) and the ultra-fit whaling crew.

What stomach muscles and impressive back flips these lads boasted - and all presented with slick precision to the lively baton of music director/conductor, David Firman.

The 16-strong orchestra was superb and helped pace this potent production full of familiar numbers like What's the Use of Wond'rin (sung by Julie and the girls), You'll Never Walk Alone (Julie and Nettie) and the ballet event starring a nimble Lindsey Wise as Billy's daughter, Louise, Enoch, the Snow Children and other agile dancers.

The story itself is pretty tame. We watch Billy mope about and turn to crime when he finds out his wife, Julie, is pregnant.

With no job and no prospects he agrees to join his friend Jigger and attack and rob a ship's captain (David Hagan) of his whaling proceeds.

Billy's rough and brutish ways are tolerated by his wife, who reckons he's gentle underneath and just miserable because he is unemployed and refuses to return to work at the carousel under the management of the vampish Mrs Mullin, played exuberantly by Diana Kent. But when the raid goes horribly wrong Billy stabs himself in the stomach and dies dramatically on stage.

As Julie's tears flow, his soul is transported to heaven and two angels appear and offer him time back on earth to see his daughter, Louise, graduate. He is also given time to apologise to the long-suffering Julie.

Once again the whole second act is trumpeted by magnificent sets and sounds, and Billy sings The Highest Judge of All when he reaches heaven.

Carousel at The Savoy Theatre must be seen.

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