South Pacific is set during World War II and encapsulates two love stories, threatened by the realities of living and dying in a war zone. Although the show is a little outdated the storyline is powerful and touches the conscience, exploring the wide spread racism prevalent at the time as well as tackling the reality of pimping and prostitution. This was controversial stuff when the Rogers and Hammerstein masterpiece first hit the stage in 1949 and still stirs the passions in 2012.
The score is dynamic with some wonderful reminiscent melodies such as ‘Some enchanted evening’ sung by the accomplished baritone Emile Matthew Cammelle ‘Bali Ha’i’ sung hauntingly by Bloody Mary Jacqueline Tate and ‘I’m gonna wash that man right outa my hair performed with real shampoo by Samantha Womack as the naïve American Nurse ‘Nellie Forbush’.
The highlight for me, and I think for the audience who roared their approval is ‘There is nothing like a dame’ sung and danced energetically by the men’s’ ensemble. It took me back to the newsmen on the Morecombe and Wise show many years ago, which makes me smile just thinking about it.
Samantha Womack is a delightful and convincing heroine, despite her character’s inbuilt prejudices, so typical of the time. She is light and bright on stage and her romantic scenes with Emile Matthew Cammelle are both touching and believable. Emile, although slim in build has a commanding presence and a depth that touches the soul with the pathos of his love songs, particularly ‘This nearly was mine’ when he realises his love is lost.
Alex Ferns plays the superb comic role of Luther Billis. It is a shame that his native Scottish accent together with his American lilt for the part, mostly spoken very quickly, make him almost impossible to understand at times. A great part and a show stealer nonetheless.
Bloody Mary Jacqueline Tate although comedic in some parts portrays as a sinister figure taking advantage of wartime opportunity to make money with no thought of who may be damaged as a result. This includes pimping her own daughter to Lieutenant Cable Daniel Koek and black marketeering to the American troops.
Lieutenant Cable Daniel Koek has a beautiful tenor voice and is well suited to the smooth American Officer he portrays. Captain Brackett Nigel Williams and Commander Harbison Dominic Taylor execute their cameo roles with the force and rigour associated with ‘men at the top’. The children are a delight of course, played on Press night by Astou and Madani Sidibi, siblings from Salisbury. There are no weak links in this Show. The scenes, set changing and lighting are inspired ensuring that you are transported to islands far away.
This is a really slick, well polished and enchanting piece of theatre.