Loreto College - Coleraine, Co. Derry, Northern Ireland
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The leads of 'Billy' and 'Julie' in the Loreto College production of 'Carousel' - View Full Size Image
The leads of 'Billy' and 'Julie' in the Loreto College production of 'Carousel'
'Nettie' and 'Julie' in the Loreto College production of 'Carousel' - View Full Size Image
'Nettie' and 'Julie' in the Loreto College production of 'Carousel'
'Carrie' and 'Julie' in the Loreto College production of 'Carousel' - View Full Size Image
'Carrie' and 'Julie' in the Loreto College production of 'Carousel'
The Heavenly Friends with 'Billy' and 'Julie' - View Full Size Image
The Heavenly Friends with 'Billy' and 'Julie'
A chorus scene from 'Carousel' - View Full Size Image
A chorus scene from 'Carousel'

An outstanding production of the well-known musical ‘Carousel’ was performed at Loreto College Coleraine, Specialist School, throughout the week beginning Monday 12th October 2009.  Playing to packed houses, and attracting well-deserved standing ovations, the cast of some 120 students, selected by audition from throughout the College’s junior and senior classes, displayed an impressive level of dramatic and musical talent throughout the show’s week-long run.

‘Carousel’ tells quite a bleak story in some respects: rather than the traditional note of everyone living ‘happily ever after’, this is a tale of sadness, difficulty and unfulfilled dreams.  However, this doesn’t make it a depressing show: far from it, in fact, as the overall tone of the production is uplifting.  The story, whatever its depths, is one of redemption, atonement, forgiveness and keeping going.  Love conquers all in the end; as the Carousel of the title turns, it moves from fairground attraction to a symbol of the changing fortunes of the characters, as the fifteen years of the musical’s timespan pass.  There are many notes of humour, rousing chorus numbers, and statements of regeneration and the determination to keep going which far outweigh the darkness shading the edges of the plot.

Under the leadership of the Director, Mrs Oonah McEwan, and the Musical Director, Mr Howard Gillespie, and supported by outstanding choreography, stage, props, costume, make-up, sound and lighting teams as well as a professional orchestra, the cast members performed to a standard seldom seen in school productions.  The lead parts of Billy and Julie were played by final year students Conor O’Kane and Elizabeth Lane.  These were two beautifully nuanced performances: both Elizabeth and Conor steered clear of the obvious in portraying their characters, performing instead with great subtlety, each showing an impressive dramatic range in developing their characters over the course of the show.  In taxing parts in terms of both acting and singing, both lead actors fully merited the ovations they received from the audiences every evening.  Claire Hill and Rachael Gaile (both Year 13) also shone in the roles of Carrie and Nettie.  The perfect foil to the headstrong Julie, Claire Hill as the spirited but more conventional Carrie went from lovestruck girl to slightly rebellious wife and mother in an enjoyably witty performance.  She was very aptly partnered by Conor Doherty-Greene (Year 12) as Enoch Snow, who went from tongue-tied suitor in Act 1 to slightly pompous husband and father in Act 2, all the while retaining a wonderfully contagious chuckle.  Rachael Gaile made Nettie (Julie’s cousin) a very serene character, and her solo version of the show’s famous anthem ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ was very powerful, with some audience members admitting to having been moved to tears by her performance.  

No show is complete without a villain, and Kevin O’Kane (Year 14) was a great bad guy.  In the part of Jigger – accomplice or bad influence on Billy – Kevin combined lethal charm with a scheming mind, playing the part with a delightful frisson which allied flawless comic timing with an almost alluring sleaziness.  The counterpoint to Jigger is Mrs Mullin, the owner of the Carousel and Billy’s sometime employer.  This role was played by another Year 14 student, Fiona Carlin, with all the world-weary cynicism befitting the part.  This was another nicely considered performance which showed a subtle development of character as the plot moved on. 

As a counterpoise to the worldy Mrs Mullin and Jigger are the Starkeeper and the two Heavenly Friends.  Naoise Scally (Year 14), Ben Levy (Year 10) and Lucas Levy (Year 9) bring a lovely mix of wit and gravitas to these roles, leading Billy to his redemption and the show to its resolution.  The costumes and set design for the scenes at ‘the back gate of heaven’ are particularly effective, with just a little touch of stardust illuminating these performances and their context. 

In the latter part of the play, fifteen years on from the opening scenes, we meet Louise, daughter of Julie and Billy, played with great grace and spirit by Megan Cunning (Year 14).  Likewise we encounter the ten children of Carrie and Enoch – among these Josh Quigley (Year 12) stands out in a witty portrayal of the eldest, Enoch Junior. In the supporting cast, there were also impressive performances from some young actors who show great potential for the future.  Notable among these were James McCullagh (Y12) as Mr Bascombe, Darryl Wills (Y12) and Aidan Carlin (Y11) as the Policemen, Liam McGoldrick (Y11) as the Captain, Shane Phillips (Y11) as the Headmaster, and John McLister (Y11) as Doctor Seldon.

Overall, the audiences of the Loreto College production of ‘Carousel’ were treated to a memorable evening’s entertainment.  Supporting the leading parts was a tremendous chorus, made up of both girls and boys from throughout the school.  Slick choreography and highly accomplished singing marked out the chorus numbers, with even those in non-speaking roles notable for the conviction of their dramatic presence on stage.  The show was a real tribute to the talent and hard work of the cast, crew and directors of the show.

Mr Brian Lenehan, Principal of Loreto College, commended all those involved in the production on their tremendous achievement, describing the performances as very memorable and ‘beautiful in every way’, echoing the sentiments of audience members, many of whom described the show as among the best ever in Loreto College’s long tradition of school musicals