South Pacific ★★★★★ Sadler’s Wells Theatre | Jul 27 - Aug 28, 2022

Confronted by the horrors of WWII, the Americans in Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific find themselves in a new cultural context that forces them to confront their accepted value system. The same challenge is faced by contemporary productions of the classic 1949 musical. Are the values it espouses relevant, or even acceptable, in today's world? This brilliant production answers that question with a resounding "yes." Director, Daniel Evans, has brought to the stage a reimagined South Pacific that is true to Rodgers and Hammerstein's vision while updating the work in a way that is quite stunning for those who think they know it. Ann Yee's choreography is spectacular and right from the "Prologue" we immediately know we are in for an exciting and original evening. The interweaving of Rodgers' unforgettable music throughout the show rather than having set pieces works beautifully and Nigel Lilley, Cat Beveridge and David Cullen all do an amazing job. Principals, Julian Ovenden as Emile de Becque and Gina Beck as Nellie Forbush, excel as the star-crossed lovers who come from two different worlds. In fact, Ovenden's "This Nearly Was Mine" brought down the house. Rob Houchen is a convincingly vulnerable Lt. Cable bewitched by the sylph-like spirit of the islands, Liat, played by Sera Maehara. Douggie McMeekin does an excellent job as the broadly comic Luther Billis – not an easy role to pull off given some current sensibilities. If we had any niggles with the production, it would be that we missed some of the bel canto quality we associated with songs like "Bali Ha'i," plus there is a distractingly anachronistic shampoo bottle used in "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair." These are small points in a production that is outstanding on every other level. Indeed, no lover of the musical theatre should miss this thoughtfully relevant revival of a masterpiece of the genre.

Rated: ★★★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Photo by Johan Persson.

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