Friday, October 21, 2011

'South Pacific' by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II

21 October 2011

‘South Pacific’ by Rodgers and Hammerstein was the first musical I played for as a member of a pit band. It was a production by the excellent Westwood Musical Society at the Key Theatre in Peterborough in 1991. We did more than a week of performances, at the end of which I knew the score inside out and could recite huge chunks of the dialogue. But, being in the orchestra pit, I never actually saw the show and some aspects of the plot have never entirely made sense to me. Twenty years later I’ve finally got around to seeing ‘South Pacific’ for the first time. We were at Milton Keynes Theatre last Saturday to see the acclaimed production from the Lincoln Center, New York. It was a very straightforward revival which didn’t attempt anything particular innovative or revisionist but it was excellently done. In the same way as Shakespeare seems to have inserted lots of famous lines into ‘Hamlet’, Rodgers and Hammerstein seem to have stuck a load of very well known songs together to make a musical. It’s an impressive show that includes ‘Some Enchanted Evening’, ‘There is Nothin' Like a Dame’, ‘I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair’, ‘A Wonderful Guy’ and ‘Happy Talk’. The music was wonderful and the cast were very strong, particularly Samantha Womack as Nellie Forbush and the operatic baritone Jason Howard as Emile de Becque. I enjoyed the choreography (by Joe Langworth) but I could have done with more. I’m always a little disappointed with a musical that doesn’t have a really big dance number. And though I now finally understand the story, ‘South Pacific’ is not the most impressive of plots. Nevertheless the music is so good it doesn’t need much assistance and I really enjoyed the show.

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