Theatre - South Pacific

CHICHESTER Festival Theatre’s spellbinding production of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s South Pacific comes to Sadler’s Wells for a limited season.

This bittersweet love story, adapted from James A Michener’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Tales of the South Pacific, is set during the Second World War. Stationed on a South Pacific island, an American nurse, Nellie Forbush (Gina Beck), from Little Rock, Arkansas, falls for a middle-aged French plantation owner, Emile de Becque (Julian Ovenden).

He wants to marry her, but Nellie baulks when she discovers that he has two mixed-race children by his late Polynesian wife.

Nellie must confront her racism while Emile, heartbroken, leaves the island to risk his life on a dangerous espionage mission.

Running parallel to their love story is that of Lieutenant Joseph Cable (Rob Houchen) and Liat (Sera Maehara) a young Tonkinese woman, daughter of local souvenir trader Bloody Mary (Joanna Ampil). She’s keen for the lieutenant to marry Liat but he also has to overcome his racial prejudice which he claims, in the song You’ve Got to be Carefully Taught, had been instilled from an early age.

Daniel Evans' superb production features a full orchestra, led by musical director Cat Beveridge, and a 30-strong cast. There are some exquisite moments – Maehara’s solo dance that opens and closes the show is particularly memorable. Beck’s exuberant rendition of I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair, complete with working beachside showers, will set your feet tapping, while Ovenden’s operatic voice is outstanding. There’s humour aplenty courtesy of Douggie McMeekin’s Luther Billis – the Seabees’ lead joker.

Ann Yee’s choreography is imaginative and wide-ranging – from Maehara’s delicate balletic movements to the show-stopping big numbers. Peter McKintosh’s set is inventive (it includes a fighter plane) and practical (it can be wheeled on and off) and he makes clever use of Howard Harrison’s evocative lighting. Don’t miss.

Until August 28

Originally published by Islington Tribune