To the Stars: Sarah Brightman – Carousel

Sarah Brightman appears on the “newly orchestrated” Carousel, the musical by Oscar Hammerstein II and Richard Rodgers. Recorded at both Air Studios and CBS Studios in London in 1987, the point of this “new digital recording” of the production enlists a number of musical theatre and opera performers. Producer Thomas Z. Shepard oversees.

Brightman, fresh from Phantom, sings the role of millworker and Enoch Snow-lover Carrie Pipperidge.

Carousel stars Barbara Cook and Samuel Ramey as Julie Jordan and Billy Bigelow, respectively. Julie and Carrie are chums.

After “The Carousel Waltz,” one of many springy but flat orchestrations provided by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra with Paul Gemignani as conductor, Brightman appears with Cook to sing “Mister Snow.” The piece features informal style and finds Carrie talking about the Enochian one with stars in her eyes.

This is one of five tracks Brightman appears on. It introduces her well, but it mainly serves to set up Cook as the musical’s lead vocalist. Brightman’s tone is crystal-clear and her enunciation makes things easy to follow, but it’s pretty old-fashioned – even by Rodgers and Hammerstein standards – and the production is insipid.

It’s hard not to chuckle as Brightman calls “Well Mister Snow, here I am.” She courses into her upper registry comfortably, but the songs don’t demand the Phantom-like authority listeners and audiences were by now getting used to.

Brightman also appears as part of the chorus on “June is Bustin’ Out All Over” and sings with her illustrious Mister Snow (David Rendall) a couple of times. The most notable outing with her darling can be found on “When the Children are Asleep,” a song that suggests the fisherman has more on his mind than nets and hooks. There are some mawkish lines, including one about how Carrie’s figure will get bigger. Ha ha, get it?

“A Real Nice Clambake” is the last appearance of Brightman on the Carousel recording. By this point in the narrative, Carrie’s been hit on by Jigger (John Parry). The gender politics of the time suggest that she should be upset by this and chastened, so Brightman’s Carrie meritoriously takes her musical exit after a quick bellow.

Brightman’s voice is clear and ebullient, but there’s nothing special about this recording. Not only does it file down the Rodgers and Hammerstein work significantly, but it doesn’t do any vocalists any favours. The orchestration is sappy and uninteresting and a lot of the performances are loyally stale, making for a lacklustre recording and a lackadaisical entry in the Brightman catalogue.

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