Leeds Forum

Review South Pacific

South Pacific has finally made it here in Leeds and John Burland takes a look at this colourful production at the Grand

Review: South Pacific

It is 63 years since South Pacific first hit the stage but this brand new production is as fresh as it was six decades ago. This breathtaking and lavish production has reinvented Rodger’s and Hammerstein’s classic musical, sweeping the 2008 Tony Awards, playing for two years to sold-out houses on Broadway and televised across America. This smash hit musical is now enchanting UK audiences, receiving huge critical acclaim and played to sold out houses at London’s Barbican last summer. It has now arrived in Leeds for a two-week run at the Grand Theatre as part of its nationwide tour and features a cast of 40 and a live orchestra of 18 musicians.

Set on a tropical island during World War II, this is the sweeping romantic story of two couples, threatened by the realities of war and by their own prejudices. Its portrayal of Americans stationed in an unfamiliar culture in wartime remains as relevant today as when it first thrilled audiences over sixty years ago.

Lincoln Center Theater (sic!) Productionof the show is superb. Great sets, fantastic lighting, and a quality cast all amounts to a night out where one can sit back and be drawn to the Polynesian South Seas and be thrilled by some of Rogers & Hammerstein’s greatest songs - Some Enchanted Evening, I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair, Bali Ha’i, I’m in Love with a Wonderful Guy, Younger than Springtime, Happy Talk and There is Nothin’ Like a Dame. Familiar tunes but delivered superbly by this highly talented group of Principals and Chorus.

And it was the men’s chorus that blew most of the audience away with their powerful renditions of There is Nothin’ Like a Dame & Bloody Mary. But theirs was not the only powerful performance as the two main principals were also particularly outstanding. What a fine baritone voice Matthew Cammelle has and he appeared tailor-made for the role of Emile de Becque. His rendition of Some Enchanted Evening was superb and received a well deserved ovation from the audience. Likewise, Samantha Womack (Ronnie Mitchell in Eastenders) also gave a fantastic performance and I can only say that Eastenders loss is certainly the theatrical public’s gain. A great singer, she filled the role perfectly and relished her two main numbers of I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair and I’m in Love with a Wonderful Guy.

Comedy is a good part of the story of South Pacific, along with the more romantic and poignant areas when dealing with the conflicts of War and this was brought out superbly by Alex Ferns (Trevor Morgan in Eastenders) as Luther Billis and Jodie Kimura as Bloody Mary. The chemistry between them was excellent. Jodie is also an outstanding contralto and she certainly shone in Bali Ha’i. Another excellent performance came from Daniel Koek as Lieutenant Cable, a brilliant Tenor whose rendition of Younger then Springtime was one of the best I have heard. And finally I cannot conclude the plaudits on performance without mentioning Finton Flynn and Fabienne Jae Clarke as Jerome and Ngana, Emile’s two children. Their performances were enchanting!

I thought the orchestra under the direction of Jae Alexander were very sympathetic to the performers never allowing either the principals or the chorus to be overpowered – something often lacking in today’s modern theatre with its sound amplification.

This show certainly has the feel-good factor and is one not to be missed during its current run here in Leeds.

Posted on Wednesday 27th June 2012
John Burland

Grand Theatre & Opera House

46 New Briggate, Leeds, LS1 6NZ

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