Rodgers & Hammerstein’s classic musical South Pacific has returned to the stage and Rachel Howells visited Wales Millennium Centre to review it!
Chichester Festival Theatre production of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s South Pacific began it’s run at the Wales Millennium Theatre on Tuesday evening. Originally scheduled for the 2020 Chichester Festival it finally played to much critical acclaim in the 2021 Festival securing a short West End transfer and National Tour.
As a Rodgers & Hammerstein musical I went into the show fully expecting to have to sit through a long overture before the show began, but I was pleasantly surprised that this did not happen and the show opened with some beautiful dancing from Sera Maehara as Liat.
The musical is set in 1943 on an archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean, US troops are kicking their heels amid the cacao groves while restlessly waiting for the war to reach them. We follow the story of Nellie Forbush (Gina Beck), a navy nurse from Arkansas, who finds herself falling for the French plantation owner, Emile de Becque (Julian Overden). It really was enchanting to watch them on stage together especially when they sang Twin Soliloquies and Some Enchanted Evening.
The highlight of the first half were the song’s Bloody Mary and There is Nothing Like a Dame which featured scheming sailor Luther Billis (Douggie McMeekin) and his makeshift laundry staff, this also featured his interaction with quick-witted Polynesian Bloody Mary (Joanna Ampil) who’s intent on exploiting these foreigners. Both Douggie McMeekin and Joanna Ampil played the larger-than-life characters with great vibrancy that was hard not smile when they were on stage.
Rob Houchen played Lieutenant Joe Cable who is flown in for a dangerous reconnaissance mission, but ends up falling in love with Liat during a beautiful dance sequence, stunningly lit with candles and lanterns.
This new production is directed by Artistic Director Daniel Evans whose use of the rotating stage, set and the lighting really added to the show. It was fantastic to see the movement in places where there is a usually still set and this helps smooth the links between scenes.
After several decades as a Rodgers & Hammerstein favourite, South Pacific still makes for Some Enchanted Evening. Catch it at Wales Millennium Centre until October 15. Visit Wales Millennium Centre website for ticket availability,