Music: Richard Rogers
Lyrics: Oscar Hammerstein II
Director: Bartlett Sher
Reviewer: Marina Spark
The Public Reviews Rating:
Southampton was treated to an enchanted evening last night with the Lincoln Centre Theater’s production of ‘South Pacific’ at The Mayflower. This classic musical, first staged in 1949, has been respected in this production and fans of the 1958 movie will not be disappointed. The music and lyrics by Rogers and Hammerstein have stood the test of time; the sentiment behind songs such as ‘You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught’, which tackles racial prejudice, is as relevant today as it was 60 years ago.
Musical Director and Conductor Jae Alexander gets the show off the starting blocks with an Overture that blows the cobwebs away and transports the audience to the warm sands of the South Pacific. The well known and much loved score was beautifully played by the highly talented orchestra.
The set, designed by Michael Yeargan, is ideal for the needs of the show and made scene changes slick and unobtrusive. Natural materials found in the South Pacific, such as bamboo and grass, are used extensively in this production, which really helps the audience to embrace the time and place in which the show is set. Similarly, the authentic feel of the costumes, designed by Catherine Zuber, struck the right balance between glamour for the ladies and practicality for the Marines and Seabees. For me it was the lighting, designed by Donald Holder, which stole the show technically; the multitude of colours that lit the stage had an amazing effect on the feel of the show. It felt like the tropics; you could feel the sand between your toes, the hot sun on your shoulders and taste the sea breeze on your lips.
The performances in ‘South Pacific’ were highly enjoyable; especially from headliners Samantha Womack and Matthew Cammelle. Womack has proved herself yet again to be one of our most treasured actresses; her innate flair for performance created subtleties within Ensign Nellie Forbush that were endearing, enchanting and humorous. Matthew Cammelle’s voice and presence filled The Mayflower stage as Emile de Becque, the French plantation owner with a secret past. Heartbroken at Nellie’s refusal to marry him, his highlight was undoubtedly ‘This Nearly Was Mine’. It must be said that the connection between Womack and Cammelle has not quite developed to tell the great love story between the characters yet and it took until the second act before I began to warm to the partnership and believe their relationship. However, this was Cammelle’s first night as Emile and I am convinced that the connection will deepen and develop over the course of the tour.
The character actors stole the show for me, in particular Alex Ferns and Jacqueline Tate. Alex Ferns created a wonderfully comic Luther Billis, the crafty, wired, good hearted and at times petulant Seabee. Ferns and the ensemble of Seabees performed a fantastic rendition of ‘There is Nothin’ Like A Dame’; my musical highlight of the show. Bloody Mary was played with humour and poignancy by Jacqueline Tate. Bloody Mary’s desperation in want of a better life for her daughter Liat, played by Elizabeth Chong, was moving and affecting and Chong’s dancing can be described as nothing less than beautiful in ‘Happy Talk’.
‘South Pacific’ at The Mayflower, Southampton brought a touch of sunshine to the South Coast last night; it was just the ticket needed to brighten up those winter blues. Although the production was slick, attractive and didn’t shy away from its roots, it lacked a certain dynamism that I was hoping for. However, with great performances all round, a set that you want to escape into and a score that is well known and loved, ‘South Pacific’ is a show that will certainly be enjoyed by all.
Runs at The Mayflower Theatre, Southampton until 4th February 2012, then touring.South Pacific – Mayflower Theatre, Southampton,
Tags: Alex Ferns, Bartlett Sher, Catherine Zuber, Donald Holder, Elizabeth Chong, Jacqueline Tate, Jae Alexander, Joshua Logan, Lincoln Center Theater Production, Matthew Cammelle, mayflower theatre, Michael Yeargan, Musical, Rogers & Hammerstein, Samantha Womack, South Pacific, Southampton, Trude Rittmann