South Pacific came to Manchester on a wave of critical acclaim and didn’t disappoint.
The 1949 Broadway hit, staged at the Palace Theatre, focuses on American nurse Nellie Forbush who is stationed at a U.S. Naval Base in the South Pacific during World War II.
While on the island she falls in love with a French plantation owner, Emile de Becque, but can’t accept his past, in particular his mixed-race children.
The musical manages to tackle social issues of the time, including racism and sexism, and although hard-hitting, none of the problems raised changed the light-hearted atmosphere.
Lead roles Rebecca Thornhill (Nellie) and Matthew Camelle (Emile) gave show-stopping performances depicting their torn romance.
Director Bartlett Sher had clearly emphasised the on-stage chemistry between the two leads, and refreshed a new and imaginative interpretation of the musical.
The show managed to combine romance with comedy to great effect, largely thanks to the ‘Seabees’, lead by former Eastender Alex Ferns (Luther Billis). Their energy on stage was infectious and their risqué humour delighted the audience.
Loretta Ables Sayre (Bloody Mary) had the audience in hysterics, as a fiery middle-aged Tonkinese vendor of grass skirts. Her classic line “sexy skirt, five dollar” showed her character’s struggle to grasp English in a very amusing and convincing way.
Seeing the play for the first time, it was unpredictable and kept the audience on their toes. A fantastic use of props and swift changeovers meant little disruption to the show, and something was always going on to keep you entertained.
The ‘Thanksgiving Follies’ scene allowed the audience to participate through applause and cheers, and showed the actor’s personalities both front and backstage.
The musical director Jae Alexander comfortably lead the orchestra on some of the most famous theatre songs, but there was a notable number of reprises and little variation between them.
The attempt to recreate the setting through releasing a scent could have had the adverse effect on the audience, as at moments it was off-putting and slightly strong.
However, for the opening night, the performances given were near-perfect, and credit must go to the cast for their efforts.
Although enjoyable throughout, the duration could have been shortened, but for the acting, singing and dancing, the audience certainly got their money’s worth.