South Pacific I'm not sure what took me back to the Barbican a year later for more of their back catalogue, this time Carousel in a production by Opera North. This is one of Rodgers & Hammerstein's more regularly revived musicals, and the production has had some glowing reviews, but it won't be getting one from me. Julie Jordan (Gillene Herbert or Katherine Manley - multiple performers are listed on the website and the Barbican had no notice board up to say who was performing tonight) is a female lead (I'd tell you more about her character if she had one) who falls for Billy Bigelow (Eric Greene or Michael Todd Simpson.) He's just been fired from his job at a carnival carousel but they get married regardless, and within weeks he's smacking her about - in what I'm sure is meant as some kind of running joke, Billy keeps complaining that people have got him wrong: "I didn't beat her, I hit her."
Carousel is apparently admired for its score, and I'll agree that out of context the music on its own is very good. The songs are less interesting though - it's a musical remembered for one song ("You'll Never Walk Alone") and the rest were, for me, just dull and largely tuneless, not R&H's finest hour. Ian and I weren't too impressed by the interval ("will the cipher and the wife-beater have a happy ending?" is a difficult story to give a shit about) but opening the second act with a song about a clam bake and how the food was quite nice, wasn't it? borders on parody. So the music wasn't enough to distract from how horrible the gender politics is, and it just gets worse as the show goes on. I actually facepalmed once we got to the bit where Julie sings a whole song informing the other women that marriage is miserable but they just have to put up with it.
Carousel by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II is booking until the 15th of September at the Barbican Theatre.
Running time: 3 hours including interval.