Jo Davies’ production for Opera North moves the action forward a few decades to 1915, managing to be irresistibly romantic whilst giving the darker issues (from wife-beating to murder via unemployment and bullying) full weight.
The inky, coastal New England sky (designer Anthony Ward) is a background reminder that an emotional storm is never far away.
Michael Todd Simpson’s womanising fairground barker, Billy Bigelow, looks like a bad boy right from the start, swiftly sweeping Katherine Manley’s impressionable but determined mill girl Julie Jordan off her feet.
And, as her best friend, Sarah Tynan’s pert Carrie gives the impression that she’ll be more than a match for her fisherman intended, Enoch Snow (a nicely judged and strongly sung comic performance from Joseph Shovelton) – once she’s convinced him that nine children, no matter how well organised, are more than enough.
With lively choreography, a full orchestra and the power of operatically trained voices to deliver those irresistible melodies – from the hesitant If I Loved You to the irrepressible June is Bustin’ Out All Over – this poignant, thoughtful revival will send you home singing and cautiously optimistic, though probably not with a spring in your step.
£12.50 – £75.00
Until 15th September
Barbican, Silk Street, EC2Y 8DS
Tube | Barbican tube
Image: Robert Workman