They are best known for bringing more modern musicals to the city centre, but next week will see members of community group What We Did Next turn their hand to a Rogers and Hammerstein classic.
The company returns to the Unity from June 4 to 7 for their production of Carousel (you know, the one that brought us You’ll Never Walk Alone). It’s the ninth show for the non-professional company since forming in 2008.
“Whilst Oklahoma! is about a picnic, Carousel is about life,” so said Stephen Sondheim, a friend of the composers. The show was voted Time magazine’s best musical of the 20th century, and was Rogers and Hammerstein’s second pairing. They adapted their 1945 musical from Ferenc Molnár’s 1909 play Liliom, exchanging its Budapest setting to the coastline of Maine.
The story centres around Billy Bigelow, a carefree carousel barker, whose romance with naïve millworker Julie Jordan comes at a price. When Julie falls pregnant, Billy is coerced into assisting a robbery to provide for his unborn child – but things do not quite go to plan.
It is being directed by WWDN regular Shaun Holdom-Eyles, who has decided to take a stripped-back approach to the show, bring out the darker themes that are often overshadowed by elaborate choices of set, costume and orchestration in other productions. “The two pianos version we have chosen to present allows the raw storyline and beautiful melodies to shine through, without losing the show’s heart,” he says.
WWDN has become known in Liverpool for both reviving classic shows and for introducing audiences to modern musical theatre pieces. Previous musical productions include Company, Into the Woods, Rent, The Last 5 Years, Spring Awakening and, most recently, Bat Boy. The company has always been completely self-funded. They cover costs with ticket sales, a small membership fee and from the proceeds of events such as their regular musical theatre open mic nights, which they have been hosting in venues across the city centre since 2009.
Although no one in the company is paid, it has provided a professional stepping stone for several members and you can currently find WWDN alumni performing professionally everywhere from Germany to London’s West End.
Tickets for Carousel are available from the Unity’s website.