A stirring musical of love, pain and redemption, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel’s iconic score demands much of its performers.
Step forward revered tenor and actor Alfie Boe, perhaps best known to for his acclaimed international portrayals of Jean Valjean in Les Misérables. Starring alongside Katherine Jenkins and Nicholas Lyndhurst, Alfie is set to take centre stage in this summer’s revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s brilliant musical at the London Coliseum, the third production in the partnership between The GradeLinnit Company and English National Opera (ENO), following Sweeney Todd in 2015 and Sunset Boulevard last year. The ENO award winning 40-piece orchestra and chorus, conducted by David Charles Abell, will accompany the cast in the semi-staged version.
We caught up with Alfie to talk about how preparations for the show are progressing, and what we can look forward to at the London Coliseum from 7 April-13 May.
For anyone who doesn’t know Carousel, how would you summarise it in a nutshell?
It’s quite a deep musical to sum up! Fundamentally, it’s a love story; it’s the story of two women who take different paths in their lives as far as marriages go, and choose totally different guys.
One relationship is based on the stability of a hardworking businessman, and the other relationship is based on a bit of a lovable rogue, a bit of a devil, who doesn’t see anything ahead and resorts to a criminal life. Both relationships have their issues and have their problems, but the culmination of the show is really about redemption, and the uplifting aspect of how Billy Bigelow, my character, can redeem himself by helping his child and, through her goals, achieve something that he never did, and not go down the same path in a sense. It’s a very uplifting love story.
The show’s opening at the London Coliseum is very near now – how are you enjoying the rehearsal process, and working with such an all-star cast?
I’m loving working with the cast – they are fantastic. Katherine [Jenkins] is doing an amazing job, she sounds incredible in the show, and we have Nicholas Lyndhurst in the cast as well, who is just outstanding – he’s an amazing actor. We’re having a wonderful time.
Rehearsals are getting very technical at the moment as we’re getting closer to moving into the theatre, so we’re trying to technically go through the routines of getting on and off stage, dealing with props, and one thing and another!
Nicholas Lyndhurst, Katherine Jenkins and Alfie Boe in rehearsal for Carousel (Photo: Craig Sugden)
You’ve tackled some of the most complex musical scores in your career – what challenges does Carousel pose for you?
It is a challenging role – I personally have a lot of dialogue to say within the role, so that’s quite challenging, swapping from one technique to another.
I’m on stage a lot – there’s a moment when I walk on stage and then don’t leave until the end of the show, so that can be quite stamina-building. We’re also performing 8 times a week, so we have to keep on top of it, and make sure it’s right every time.
The show is billed as a semi-staged production, performed together with the 40-piece ENO Chorus & Orchestra. Why do you think Carousel lends itself to this style of production?
The thing about Carousel that really lends itself to the size of a production like this is how it speaks volumes through the score. The music speaks for itself – it’s dynamic, it’s rich, it’s lush. The orchestration in this score is absolutely amazing, so you can’t really do anything like that on a smaller scale, it has to be very grand.
It is quite a spectacular set; we are actually pretty much performing a full production in a sense, even though it has that element of being a semi-staged production.
It’s a show which has previously proven very popular in the West End – why is this the right time to revive it at the London Coliseum?
It’s a beautiful score with beautiful music. It has all the classic tunes: You’ll Never Walk Alone is in there, If I Loved You – a big love duet – and Billy Bigelow’s Soliloquy is in there too, it’s quite the dramatic score.
And it’s a famous musical. It’s one of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s favourite pieces that they ever wrote. They’ve said in numerous interviews how Carousel is their favourite one.
Katherine Jenkins and Alfie Boe in rehearsal for Carousel (Photo: Craig Sugden)
What do you hope audiences will take away from the production?
I hope that they’ll feel uplifted; they’ll have experienced something magnificent, something special, something unique. This is such a beautiful show – we’re all dedicated to it, and putting so much effort into it to make it a success. Everybody in the cast gets on is having a really good time, so if that can be transferred across to the audience, then I think the show has achieved its goal.
Why should theatregoers head to the Coliseum to see Carousel this summer?
Because this is a limited run, it is a unique performance, it is a unique thing to come and watch. It’s not going to be around for very long, and especially with myself and Katherine and Nicholas in it – we’re only in it for five weeks. This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see something like this.
If people want to be uplifted and experience something very special, then they must come along.
Nicholas Lyndhurst, Alfie Boe, Katherine Jenkins & Brenda Edwards with members of the cast in rehearsal for Carousel (Photo: Craig Sugden)
Beginning on 7 April 2017, with press night on 11 April 2017 at 7pm, the final performance of Carousel in this strictly limited five week run takes place on 13 May 2017. You can book your tickets through the London Coliseum’s website.