South Pacific, Edinburgh Playhouse, Review
Superb ‘South Pacific’ soars to new heights. Escape the unwelcome blast of wintry weather and enjoy the warm glow that is very much a Broadway show. Although a revival has been a long time coming, improvements in lighting and sound make this an engaging and modern show.
Having listened to the music on vinyl and CD I feared it sounded dated but from the moment the full orchestra delivered the Overture and Matthew Cammelle sang ‘Some Enchanted Evening’ for the first time you knew you were in for a treat. The show then builds a quite edgy story with comic interludes around ‘Thanksgiving Follies’ and ‘I’m going to wash that man right outa of my hair’.
The story is set on an island naval base during the Second World War when things are not going well for the Americans. The enemy are not far away on other islands and the complement of personnel is made up of officers, Seabees and nurses.
The nurses are off-limit for the ratings that inspires the well known song ‘There is nothing like a dame’ Nellie, the main female character has fallen for a French plantation owner with a past that includes two mixed race children from a relationship with a Polynesian woman.
For a show written in the post-war era, the story tackles racial prejudice head on coupled with an undercover mission to help change the course of the war in that part of the world
While some of the songs may have some corny lyrics, they are all delivered convincingly to a high standard.
Samantha Womack makes a triumphant return to the city that she spent a few years of her childhood in (Cramond) and she is certainly could be described as the ‘creme de la creme’, as Miss Jean Brodie would have put it.
Mathew Cammelle’s voice is tremendous allied to a good stage presence. Alex Ferns as ‘Billis’ demonstrates his versatility away from tv being at the heart of all the best comic moments.
Loretta Ables Sayre played ‘Bloody Mary’ in the original revival of the show at the Lincoln Theatre and makes a big impression topped by her rendering of ‘Happy Talk’. Her after show comment in support of CHAS sent everyone home with a smile on their face.
Daniel Koek as Lt. Cable plays the undercover officer and again impresses with his main song‘Younger than Springtime’ and the beautifully choreographed scene with Liat played by Elizabeth Chong.
The supporting cast notably Dominic Taylor gives gravitas to the storyline but it is a sign of a quality show that the entire cast perform at the top of their game.
The lighting conveys warmth and amazing sunsets and, along with sound effects in Act 2, transports the audience to war time in a tropical paradise.
This musical reprises a number of the songs Bali Ha’i, Dites-Moi and Some Enchanted Evening and they are as welcome as old friends.
The music may be a little old-fashioned, but combined with wonderful arrangements played by a full orchestra it adds up to an evening of the best that musical theatre can offer.
Runs to 14 April, 7.30pm (Wed & Sat, 2.30pm)