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Review of South Pacific, The Mayflower, Southampton
AS FUNNY and tender as it is dark, it is easy to see why the spectacular South Pacific has picked up so many awards since its revival.
The New York production is touring fresh from a stint at The Barbican in London – and brought a handful of Tony Awards with it across the pond.
The almost entirely new cast for the UK bring the wartime love story to life in a slightly long but delightful three hours, set to one of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s most glorious scores.
The stand-out performance comes from Jacqueline Tate who has real stage presence and is comical yet sinister as Bloody Mary, the pedlar prepared to go to any lengths to profit from war, even pimping out her own daughter.
Samantha Womack, best known as Walford’s Ronnie Mitchell, is brilliantly engaging as naïve American nurse Nellie and showed none of the nerves she has been feeling after a short break from the show. She gels convincingly with Matthew Cammelle in only his second show as her love interest, French plantation owner Emile. The highs and lows of their relationship and the issues surrounding his Polynesian children are movingly observed and the pair both sing exceptionally well. Cammelle’s operatic songs with the equally superb Daniel Koek as Lt Joe Cable are a highlight and Womack’s rendition of I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair is great fun.
Another EastEnders graduate, Alex Ferns, plays Luther Billis with terrific gusto. His turn in a straw skirt and coconut shells for Honey Bun is a real treat.
But beneath the jolly exterior lurk darker issues and the cast are equally at home with anything, be it racial tension, heartbreak or bare bottoms.
Cleverly staged and with the benefit of a stunning live orchestra, I expect more awards to come the way of this talented cast.