Helena Blackman - the runner-up from How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?, the BBC One TV competition to win the lead in the West End revival of The Sound of Music - will star opposite West End veteran Dave Willetts in a major new revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classic 1949 Broadway musical South Pacific. The touring production opens on 24 August 2007 at Blackpool Grand Theatre before continuing, until July 2008, to more than 30 other venues.

Adapted from short stories by James Michener, South Pacific portrays two different love affairs. One involves a Navy lieutenant and a Polynesian girl, the other centres on a nurse and a French planter. The couples’ paths become entwined when the men are sent on a dangerous mission behind Japanese lines. Songs include “Happy Talk”, “Some Enchanted Evening”, “This Nearly Was Mine” and “I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair”.

The musical’s Broadway premiere ran for nearly 2,000 performances and won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama as well as nine Tony Awards, while an Oscar-winning film version was released in 1958. In London, the stage musical was first seen at the West End’s Theatre Royal Drury Lane in 1951 and had its last major revival at the National Theatre in 2001.

Since How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?, Helena Blackman’s stage credits have included Gypsy at the Cardiff International Festival of Musical Theatre and The Wizard of Oz at Leicester Haymarket. Dave Willetts’ many West End credits include Les Miserables, The Phantom of the Opera, Cats, Jesus Christ Superstar and, most recently, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. He’s just appeared on tour in 42nd Street, also presented by UK productions Ltd.

South Pacific is directed by Julian Woodford and choreographed by Chris Hocking. Following Blackpool, it tours to over 30 venues across the country, including Edinburgh, Belfast, York, Liverpool, Bristol and Derby, before finishing in July 2008 at the Cardiff New Theatre.


In another touring revival, Gary Wilmot (pictured) is signed up to play the lead role of Arthur Kipps in Half a Sixpence. Wilmot is an old hand on the musical scene, having starred in Me and My Girl, Copacabana, Oliver!, HMS Pinafore and, in 2006, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at the London Palladium.

With music and lyrics by David Heneker and a book by Beverley Cross, the rags-to-riches-to-rags story of orphan Kipps, who inherits a vast fortune then has it embezzled away, is based on an HG Wells novel. It had its West End premiere in 1965, when pop star Tommy Steele took the lead, before transferring to Broadway and becoming a 1967 film.

The new touring production is directed by Bob Tomson, designed by Alexander McPherson and produced by Bill Kenwright. The tour commences on 15 August 2007 at the Theatre Royal Windsor, before visiting Bromley, Aberdeen, Liverpool, Preston, Brighton, Birmingham, Woking, Manchester, and Bradford. It concludes on 17 November 2007 in Stoke-on-Trent.

- by Stuart Denison