CATS Youth Theatre
Theatre Church, Seymour Road, Astley Bridge

RENOWNED Bolton-born theatre critic Eric Bentley once said some rather mean things about Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical Carousel, but this rather sweet production by CATS Youth Theatre may well have been able to change his mind.

Focusing on the flawed yet ultimately loving relationship between mill girl Julie Jordan and carousel barker Billy Bigelow, the decision to have a youth theatre stage the show adds an extra layer of sentimentality to the plot.

Sam Cain, as Billy Bigelow, has a truly astonishing voice for a 15 year-old, and it is easy to picture him as a Javert in Les Mis, or even as the Phantom. Rebecca Bolton is charming as the naive and romantic Julie, while Samantha Bland shows great comic promise as Julie’s down-to-earth friend Carrie.

Carousel’s biggest number, You’ll Never Walk Alone, has sadly since become more associated with MOR crooners Robson and Jerome, but Catherine Cropper’s rendition as Julie’s kind-hearted cousin, consoling her young relative following Billy’s death, brings tears to the eyes.

The only criticism is with the play, not the players. There is a line where Julie tells her daughter that it is possible for a man to hit you and it not to hurt. Feminism isn’t a dirty word in the Dibbits household, and surely in this far more enlightened age this line should be cut? Plenty of things were thought acceptable in 1945, when the show first opened, that aren’t now. This is one of them.

That gripe aside, CATS’ show proves that there is plenty of young talent in Bolton. Theatre Church could be sold off in the near future. Get behind the campaign to save it, and hopefully that talent will be able to bloom.