When I think of Rodgers & Hammerstein Musicals, two shows come to mind. Oklahoma and The King & I. You know the ones, happy tunes that get stuck in your head for days, and unlikely couple who are brought together by a series of humorous mishaps and a bunch of feel good, foot-tapping dance numbers right? Well, it seems there was a lot more depth to this musical duo than I first thought and the shining example is Carousel.

Carousel tells the story of a romance between Carousel barker ‘Billy Bigelow’ (Andrew Pennycuick) and millworker ‘Julie Jordan’ (Allie Sutherland) and deals with domestic violence, death, regret, life-altering decisions and hope for the future, all combined with an intensely beautiful score, an amazing dream ballet (who doesn’t love a dream ballet?!) and standout performances from emotionally charged characters including the ultimate song of female solidarity You’ll never walk alone.

Allie Sutherland (Julie Jordan) with Andrew Pennycuick (Billy Bigelow) Photography copyright Gavin D Andrew.

This October, Babirra Music Theatre brings Rodgers & Hammerstein’s self confessed ‘favourite show’ to life and I was lucky enough to chat with Allie Sutherland, leading lady of the upcoming production to ask her a few questions and hopefully find out a bit more about the ‘emotional rollercoaster’ that is Carousel.

TP: What would you most like people to know about Carousel?

Six of Seven Snow children. Photography copyright Gavin D AndrewAS: “It’s a very emotional show that really goes to the heart of Human Emotion. Its very, very sad, but then you have these highs and lows that are supported by such beautiful music, which just tells such a beautiful story. When you think of Oklahoma and The farmer and the cowman will be friends etc., its just not like that at all”

TP: You play Julie Jordan – female lead and your character is ‘put through the ringer’ emotionally, throughout the show. What has that been like to play?

AS: “Its been really hard! It’s a really emotionally harrowing role and I’ve tried to do some research into why people stay in abusive relationships, the push and pull factors of economics and the emotional toll it takes. I mean you didn’t have Centrelink in the 1870’s and leaving a relationship was basically leaving everything. Also, having Andrew [Pennycuick], who really is such a phenomenal actor you can derive a lot of what you’re trying to tell by just pulling from what he does. I haven’t worked with him before and he’s fantastic”

TP: Director Chris Bradtke is known for drawing great performances from people – what should we expect from this production?

AS: “Chris has made lots of good suggestions and lots of interesting choices and it’s been more of creative experimentation rather than trying to copy anything that has been done before”

TP: There are directors out there who tell you exactly how they want things and then there are Directors who are happy for you to try a few different things, what has his style been like for you?

AS: “Chris does a bit of both. He’s very open to hearing what you have to offer and he’s also very clear about what he wants as well which is fantastic to have that mix so you don’t feel like you’re out at sea, but you also get your own creative licence. He’s not controlling, he’s just very clear. He provides an excellent guide that then allows you to play”

TP: Any standout scenes or performances we should look out for?

AS: “Seeing Andrew do Soliloquy is just heartbreaking. It’s just beautiful. His voice is  phenomenal and its like nothing you’ve ever really seen and then there’s Eliza, who plays Louise. Her Dream Ballet is just beautiful. I don’t think I ever knew what a dream ballet really was, but its just amazing how she can just tell such a story through dance . Di’s choreography paints such a beautiful picture. Its just a really honest piece of theatre that pushes the boundaries for the 1940’s and it really takes you places that you haven’t really thought about before. Its just really beautiful”

Babirra Music Theatre’s production of Carousel runs from Fri. 11th to Sat 19th October at the Whitehorse centre. Show information and ticket booking details can be found on their website www.babirra.org.au