South Pacific Review – Lichfield Operatic Society
Lichfield Garrick Theatre – Dress Rehearsal November 5 2017
South Pacific is one of the most celebrated of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s works and the Lichfield Operatic Society definitely does them proud with their vibrant, funny, moving, uplifting and sentimental version at the Garrick.
Set at the time of World War Two it tells the story of a group of American soldiers, sailors and officers on a remote Polynesian Island and their relationships with the local people, all under the cloud of the war as the battle with the Japanese forces carries on around them. It centres on the relationship between Emile De Becque, a French émigré who fled his native country after killing a man and Nellie Forbush, an American nurse who falls for Emile’s Gallic charms. A secondary love interest is between Lieutenant Joe Cable, on a special mission behind enemy lines to spy on Japanese troop movements, and Liat, a young Polynesian girl who meet on a ‘one night stand’ organised by Liat’s wily mother, Bloody Mary, then quickly fall in love.
South Pacific is, on this level, a sweet love story of boy meets girl but there is a darker undercurrent running throughout, when we discover that both Nellie and Joe are uncomfortable with their feelings for their respective partners. In Nellie’s case it is because Emile has been married before and has two children – but this is not her main concern, it is because his wife, now deceased, was a Polynesian girl and Emile’s children are of mixed-race. Joe too has doubts about his relationship with a local girl and it is this feeling of racial awareness that gives the script a sharper edge. Written in 1949 by Hammerstein and Joseph Logan, it must have been very controversial in 1950s America – but despite this it ran for 1,925 consecutive performances when launched on Broadway.
The on-off love stories continue as both parties struggle with their feelings of what is right and wrong while the horrors of war have a direct impact on all concerned. But who will survive the attacks of the Japanese warplanes – and will true love win the day?
The Lichfield Operatic Society perform this wonderful show with their usual vim and vigour, displaying great vocal and acting talent. Phil Bourn as the troubled singleton Emile, struggling with his emotions and wondering if Nellie is the love of his life, provides some wonderful moments especially when performing the moving and show stopping ‘Some Enchanted Evening’ and Kate Pinell as Nellie is spunky, funny and engaging, the highlight for me being the fantastic ‘I’m Going to Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair’ complete with a realistic shower scene of bubbles, soap and water (and shower scenes are becoming part of the Lichfield Garrick’s repertoire after last year’s amazing panto!).
Pat Jervis and Ava Taroni provide great support as the ill-fated lovers Joe and Liat while Deb Middleton as Bloody Mary, Kevin Wright as stevedore Stew Pot and Jonathan Jaylon Blake as the spiv sailor Billis all provide plenty of laughs as the archetypal comedy characters – and Jonathan dressed in Polynesian drag (with a lovely pair of coconuts!) dancing with the girls is a true comedy classic! Final mention for two young local stars, Maizie Grew and Toby Clark as Emile’s children Ngana and Jerome, who both took their parts very well and sang the delightful ‘Dites-Moi’, a lovely, charming scene.
The show is jam-packed with Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classics, as well as the above, there is ‘Bali Ha’I’; ‘Younger than Springtime’; the sprightly ‘Happy Talk’ and of course the amazing ‘There is Nothing Like a Dame’ which for those of you of a certain generation (mine!) will always make you think of the Morecambe and Wise Christmas Show!
Very ably directed by Julie Mallaband with lively choreography by Charlotte Middleton and musical arrangement by Mark Timms it’s a show that is very easy on the eye and there are some clever use of lighting and audio props to illustrate the atmosphere of the time.
South Pacific has everything you want in a show – one of the best set of songs you will find by two of the most iconic writers of their day, lots of laughs, great dance routines and all set in a romantic, glamorous, idyllic Pacific island location. But it also has a steelier edge to it that you don’t find in most musicals – the horrors of war and underlying racial tensions give the audience something to think about as they walk home, in between humming the classic songs that they won’t be able to get ‘outta their heads’ for weeks to come.
I’ve seen the film many times but you just cannot beat live performance especially when you are in the very safe hands of the wonderful Lichfield Operatic Society – remaining seats are really limited for the week and I’d really recommend that you book in as soon as you can – you’ll definitely be guaranteed an ‘Enchanted Evening!
South Pacific is on at the Garrick Main Theatre from Tuesday 7 to Saturday 11 November starting at 7.30pm with a Saturday matinee at 2.30pm. Tickets available in person from the Lichfield Garrick on Garrick Square, by phone on 01543 412121 or via their website: