Last night a near capacity house welcomed in the Metropolitan Musical Theatre’s production of South Pacific at the Arts Theatre. The post WWII production by Rodgers and Hammerstein is, if nothing else, a trip down memory lane in so many ways – from that style of musical, now swept aside by the staging onslaughts of Wicked, Cats and the like, to the US having clear cut victories in wars they enjoin.
The story mixes US navy personnel stationed amongst local French and Polynesians on a Solomon island and centres around two budding but problematic loves; Ensign Nellie Forbush’s (Emma Gordon-Smith) with local Frenchman Emile De Becque (John Greene) and Lt Joseph Cable’s (Angus Birdseye) with local girl Liat (Celeste Barone). To pull on heart strings of the immediate post war era, the story has it all – the boys who didn’t come home, the rampaging of US servicemen when not fighting, bravery in the face of fire, victory and, of course, ‘true’ love.
Emma Gordon-Smith does a powerfully good job as the innocent girl from Little Rock and John Greene nicely straddles playing the lonely man who remains suave and sophisticated in the face of a fairly primitive local population. Birdseye could have done with more beef on him but he possesses a fine voice and on that score, Carolyn Mesecke as Bloody Mary, the local matron and wheeler dealer of the island stood out.
Angus Smith as Luther Billis, the knockout SeaBee looking for angles to get amongst the local female inhabitants, is also another strong performer and nicely cast as Bloody Mary’s foil.
The fourteen- strong orchestra was up the task as well under Musical Director Trish Spence, and while the stage design was predictable, Lisa Ciossi’s lighting continued to keep it all fresh.
You are not going to get a better amateur theatre company rendition of this or any similar musical than the Met’s South Pacific. Those attending who were almost universally there to trip out on that memory lane lapped it all up, even if the somewhat ridiculous start time for a three hour show meant the finale rolled round at an hour well past most of their usual lights out time. Well done to all.
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