On board the Carousel

by Majella Reid

Leonard AndersonLeonard Anderson fell into musicals by accident. A quiet invitation to join a male chorus, followed by a further invitation to do some choreography, resulted in a full-time career for a man who is today an award-winning musical director.

A native of Scarvagh (near Banbridge, County Down), Mr Anderson is well known in County Longford having directed eight musicals which were produced by St. Mel’s Musical Society. He is currently in rehearsals for his ninth production with the award-winning group.

According to Mr Anderson, this year the group has chosen one of its most ambitious projects to date, the much-loved Rodgers and Hammerstein classic ‘Carousel’. The production will feature in excess of 70 cast and crew members.

“Carousel is slightly darker as a musical and it has some of the best known music in musical theatre,” said Mr Anderson.

The musical, which first premièred in 1945 on Broadway, is set in New England in the United States. In its day the production was considered something of a taboo-breaker as it touched upon topics such as suicide and wife-beating.

“Along the way there is a lot of fun, however,” said Mr Anderson. “This comes in the form of Mr Snow (Tony Wadde) and Carrie (Deirdre Leavy).”

Making his début performance in musical theatre is Aughnacliffe man Kevin Gormley, who plays the lead role of Billy Bigelow. Deirdre McCabe of Mohill, County Leitrim, plays Billy’s love interest, Julie Jordan.

Mr Anderson, who has been directing musicals full-time since 1993, believes the story line is one which will appeal to musical lovers, and indeed theatre lovers, of all ages.

The plot revolves around the character Billy Bigelow and his relationship with Julie Jordan. Billy falls fowl of badness and eventually commits suicide.

“When he goes to Heaven he is given a chance to go down again (to Earth) and to do some good for a day. In doing so he may just earn the right to get into Heaven,” said the director.

The stage will also be graced by St. Mel’s Musical Society stalwarts such as Aideen Mulligan (Nettie Fowler), David Flaherty (Jigger), Liz Leavy (Mrs Mullin), Roy Davis, John Kelly, Justin Forde, Gráinne Fox, Jim McDonald, Luke Cassidy, Heather Moore and many many more.

This Rodger and Hammerstein classic is widely known for its legendary songs which include ‘June is Bustin’ Out All Over’, ‘If I Loved You’, and of course the Liverpool football anthem ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’. Rodger and Hammerstein are also known for the international award-winning musicals, Oaklahoma and the King and I.

“It (Carousel) really has something for everyone. There are a couple of mime bits in it also and I’ve brought in Amy Duignan and her dancers to execute the balletic moves,” said Mr Anderson, who has been involved with St. Mel’s Musical Society since 2000 producing previous productions such as Hello Dolly and The King and I.

“We have about 23 children ranging in age from five years to 12 in this production,” he added.

In 1999 TIME magazine named Carousel the best musical of the 20th Century.