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Stars in great voice, but stuck on a wooden merry-go-round


Carousel, Coliseum, London


AT least the English National Opera are upfront about the purpose of their annual semi-staged productions of classic musicals, which last year featured Glenn Close in Sunset Boulevard. Namely, that they are all about the celebrity.

Stick on a huge name, goes the logic, and the crowds will follow. To hell, you can almost hear the thinking, with the actual show.

Here, in Lonny Price’s lovely-looking but frustratingly bland revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical about the doomed love affair between Julie Jordan and bad-boy circus worker Billy Bigelow, it’s Katherine Jenkins and Alfie Boe who provide the raison d’être.

Both are supremely talented singers with a huge fan base — but neither can act.

Boe’s only gesture is to stand manfully with his hands on his hips, wearing an ill-advised wig that makes him look like an extra from Pirates Of The Caribbean. Jenkins trembles sweetly in the right places but neither she nor Boe can drum up a flicker of sexual chemistry.

Theirs is a complex relationship that includes domestic abuse which this superficial reading treats with scant interest.

A 42-piece orchestra does full justice to a score rich in big-bellied beauties, including You’ll Never Walk Alone. There’s also an entertaining turn from Nicholas Lyndhurst as the Starkeeper.

Carousel is a musical drenched in operatic emotion. There might be plenty on display in the singing but none of it feels earned.