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5 Reasons to see Carousel at Kilworth House Theatre

In a leafy corner of Leicestershire lies the picturesque Kilworth House and Theatre. The brainchild of owner and producer Celia Mackay (who the theatre is now named after) the theatre has for 15 years been producing West End worthy professional productions ranging from shows including Oklahoma!, The Sound of Music, Guys and Dolls, and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

Now after delays due to the COVID pandemic the theatre is back with its first full-scale production since 2019 with a new production of the Rogers and Hammerstein classic Carousel directed and choreographed by Nick Winston. The show is now playing through until July 3rd 2022. Tickets are available from

Matt Blaker (centre) and the cast of Carousel.

I went along to see this breathtaking new staging and present to you 5 reasons why you should catch the show.

1. The Direction and Choreography
Nick Winston's visionary direction has lit up numerous productions including Bonnie and Clyde (West End), Fame (West End and UK Tour), Mame (Hope Mill Theatre) and more. This latest offering is magnificently helmed by Winston's clear, precise storytelling and exquisite choreography. Winston roots his production in 1945 (the same year the original production premiered on Broadway) as Billy Bigelow and Jigger Craigin return home from World War II to lives with no prospects until Billy is offered employment as a Carousel Barker and Jigger finds work on a whaler. Winston's brilliant eye for combining music and storytelling makes this production tick. 

Winston's stunning choreography is largely provided by a youthful ensemble, including a dazzling 'Ballet' sequence in Act Two which has you sitting back enjoying dance bliss. The vibrant movement is skilly performed by the company with effortless ease. 

2. The cast
Anne Vosser Casting has assembled a remarkable cast for this production. The production is led by an outstanding Matt Blaker as Billy Bigelow. Blaker has real presence and physicality to his Bigelow. When you think about Bigelow he's a bit of a repulsive character, and through Blaker, you get to see both the dark and the light, his version of 'Soliloquy' is nothing short of perfection as you see the humanity in a man simply wanting to provide for a future child. 

Blaker is matched by an equally magnificent Emma Kingston as Julie Jordan. Kingston impressively carries the emotions of the character throughout the journey of the show. Kingston has a real warm likeable presence and her vocal range is stunning. 

Matt Blaker and Emma Kingston in Carousel.

Julie Yammanee's Carrie Pipperidge offers some lovely support as Julie's slightly larger-than-life closest friend. There's some great comedy in the relationship with Tom Sterling's big-voiced Enoch Snow. The relationship between the pair isn't without its bumps but unlike Bigelow and Jordan's theirs focuses more on the lightness. Sterling's vocals soar into the Kilworth sky with such ease.

Madalena Alberto's charming Nettie Fowler is a burst of joy in the production, especially in the upbeat 'June is Bustin' Out All Over' but undoubtedly the biggest moment comes in the iconic number 'You'll Never Walk Alone' which is sung with real power and emotion. 

Lara Denning's dominant Mrs. Mullin commands the stage which great ability. She's a sensual character and interacts well with Billy and there's a beautiful moment of interaction after Bigelow's death where Mrs. Mullin acknowledges Jordan and the shared pain they're both feeling in the aftermath of the loss. 

George Maddison portrays Jigger Craigin's miscreant manner well, he's clearly a wrong'un and Maddison does a good job of conveying that especially as he leads Bigelow astray. 

Genevieve Heron pitches Louise perfectly, a troubled 15-year-old who is struggling to fit into a society that rejects her due to her father's past. There are some lovely moments towards the end of the production as she finds her way again. Heron is magnificent in leading the 'Ballet' sequence too.

There's some incredible dance quality to the ensemble. The ease and skill that the company pulls off the movement is top drawer. It's difficult to single any of the ensemble out but a special mention must go to Diante Lodge, who impressed both me and my Dad with his movement.

3. The music
The score by Rogers and Hammerstein features some of the duo's best work. Songs such as 'If I Loved You', 'June is Bustin' Out All Over' and 'You'll Never Walk Alone' are musical theatre classics. Here a tremendous sounding 13-piece orchestra under the musical direction of Francis Goodhand brings the score to life and makes it sound as alive as it deserves. The orchestra at Kilworth is housed in a gazebo to one side of the stage so isn't visible but they make up for that in the sound they make. 

Chris Whybrow's sound design alongside Neil McNally and George Rowell's sound engineering and operation makes the production sing. Even with the sounds of nature you're never distracted or removed from the piece and that is thanks to the great sound work.

The male ensemble of Carousel.

4. The design
Philip Witcomb's design is superb. You arrive in your seats and the set looks like a funfair that is waiting to burst to life and it does once the show gets going. The use of a couple of ramps - though one looked rather steep is clever in allowing for different levels. There's a clever use of a carousel, minus the horses, particularly in the opening 'The Carousel Waltz' number. The use of the space is well thought out and conceived by Witcomb as are his costumes in fitting with the 1945 setting. 

Atmospheric lighting is provided by Jason Taylor. You don't really get the full effect until the second act when it begins to get darker and the lighting becomes more effective in setting the scene, especially the heaven scenes. The lighting is enhanced further by the use of dry ice which adds a cloudy mist to the air. The silence after Bigelow's death is staged beautifully with the use of natural settings and light.

5. The theatre itself
It's undeniable that one of the highlights of a visit to Kilworth House Theatre is the settling itself. You enter along a treelined driveway and are guided by volunteers into parking spaces on a grassy field. Here you can exit your car and have a picnic on the chairs provided. Alternatively, you can pre-book dinner at the hotel itself.

Heading down to the theatre, past the box office cabin where you have your tickets checked and the option to purchase a programme. You walk through the woods across a wooden walkway into a clearing with the theatre on your right and the beautiful Staging Post to your left. Head around the back of the theatre where you'll find a well-stocked bar and follow the path onto a fair-sized toilet block.

The open-air theatre does have a canopy roof so even in rain you risk no danger of getting wet during the performance. The theatre has 550 padded seats which all over a clear view of the stage. There's an option to hire a blanket for those colder evenings, all for a minimum charity donation of £1 which is donated to Cancer Research UK. Relax and soak up the show. 

Post-show it is more than worth visiting the wooden gem that is The Staging Post bar. This is a lovely place to sit and reflect on the performance with your guests over a drink. 

All in all, Carousel offers an unforgettable evening (or afternoon) of theatre. Winston's production takes this classic musical and has created a new masterpiece version. In all the 75-plus years since its debut, it's hard to believe that Carousel has ever been this good. Astonishing, a production for the ages.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Carousel runs at Kilworth House Theatre until Sunday 3rd July 2022. Tickets are available from

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