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Musical cheers: State Opera brings Carousel to the Festival Theatre

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State Opera SA will open its 2021 season with a performance of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Carousel – hailed as marking the return of musicals to the Festival Theatre after the pandemic forced live performance off-stage for most of this year.

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The March 26 performance of Carousel: A Concert, announced today, will be headlined by Sydney-based actor and singer Ben Mingay as Billy Bigelow, a roguish carnival barker who becomes romantically involved with a young mill worker.

Mingay, who says it is one of his bucket-list roles, has a diverse list of performance credits to his name, ranging from TV series Packed to the Rafters to Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge, Shrek the Musical, Phantom of the Opera, Jersey Boys and West Australian Opera’s 2019 production of Sweeney Todd (directed by SOSA’s Stuart Maunder). He’s also part of the cast of the recently announced new Channel 9 drama Amazing Grace.

South Australian soprano Desiree Frahn will play Julie, the female lead in Carousel: A Concert, with other cast members including Ben Rasheed, Johanna Allen and Dimity Shepherd.

It has guts and glory, love and tragedy

Carousel is described as a classic bad boy meets good girl story that “doesn’t have the happiest of endings”.

Featuring songs such as “If I Loved You”, “June is Bustin’ Out All Over” and “You’ll Never Walk Alone” (English soccer club Liverpool United’s theme song), it will be performed with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra.

Carousel is one of the greats,” says State Opera artistic director Stuart Maunder.

“Celebrated by music-theatre lovers and football fans alike, it has guts and glory, love and tragedy.”

The last musical presented at Adelaide Festival Centre’s Festival Theatre was Billy Elliot the Musical in January.

State Opera was one of the first South Australian arts companies forced off-stage this year when the COVID-19 shutdown hit just before it was set to present a one-off performance of Carl Orff’s epic Carmina Burana at Memorial Drive Park on March 27.

Almost all the shows in its 2020 season were postponed or cancelled, with the company returning to the stage for the first time this month with Summer of the Seventeenth Doll, an adaptation of Ray Lawler’s 1955 Australian play of the same name.

The opera version – a reimagining by Peter Goldsworthy (libretto) and Richard Mills (composer) – will be presented at Her Majesty’s Theatre on November 14, 18 and 20.

Further announcements about State Opera’s 2021 program are expected in the coming weeks.

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