Wednesday, 20 August 2003

South Pacific, Production Company, Aug 20, 2003

South Pacific 
by Richard Rogers  & Oscar  Hammerstein  Book by Hammerstein and Joshua Logan   
The Production Company
State Theatre, Melbourne, Aug 20 to  24, 2003
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

South Pacific, by Rogers and Hammerstein, is chock-filled with memorable, singable melodies.

Although this concert version by The Production Company  is without all the bells and whistles of a full production, it is entertaining both musically and as a narrative.

Directors, John Diedrich  and Jo-Anne Robinson,  keep the stage action and choreography simple and concentrate on character and story.

The orchestra, conducted by Musical Director, Guy Noble,  is a fine ensemble that takes pride of place on stage.

Rogers and Hammerstein, with Joshua Logan, created this musical hit in 1949 based on James A. Michener's  Tales of the South Pacific.

Set on a Pacific island during World War Two,  it deals with not one, but two love stories.

Nellie Forbush,  an American nurse, falls in love with French plantation owner, Emile de Becque,  (John Diedrich OK) a widower with half-Polynesian children.

Meanwhile, Lieutenant Joe Cable,  (Matt Hetherington) falls for an island girl, Liat  (Soolin Ong-Tan).

It is a story of romance and war with plenty of goofy songs and romantic ballads that spring readily to our lips.

I'm In Love With a Wonderful Guy,  Some Enchanted Evening  and Younger Than Springtime are classics in the romantic repertoire.

I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair  gives the sexy chorus of nurses a vehicle while There Is Nothing Like A Dame  is a rousing tune by the troupe of GIs.

A less well-known song, You've Got to Be Carefully Taught,  is profoundly critical of the racism inherent in the American culture and thus in Cable and Nurse Nellie.

Diedrich as the cultured, romantic Frenchman, has a warm voice, credible accent and plays Emile with dignity and simple charm.

Katrina Retallick  plays the unsophisticated Nellie with a perkiness and brightness in her voice reminiscent of Mitzi Gaynor  in the 1958 film.

As the enterprising and naughty GI , Luther Billis,  Marty Fields  brings a cheekiness and comic energy that allows the dynamic of scenes to shift.

April-Marie Nebo  has a wicked glint in her eye and richness in her voice as Bloody Mary, the Islander making a huge profit out of selling grass skirts to Americans.

Richard Jeziorny provides a simple, movable set design. Lighting by Philip Lethlean  spills vivid colour and textured surfaces onto a backdrop, creating the day and night sky of the island.

Although this production lacks some verve, it is a fun night of witty and energetic musical theatre.

By Kate Herbert

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