Rogers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific makes a splash at Leeds Grand Theatre.
A revival of a classic show is always welcome, and Daniel Evans’ take on South Pacific breathes new life into a familiar story. Set on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean during the height of the Second World War, the story sees love blossoming between army nurse Nellie Forbush and French plantation owner Emile de Becque, who has more than one secret in his past. Surrounding the pair is a troop of army personnel and island natives all waiting for the action of the war to reach them.
Julian Ovenden (Downton Abbey, Bridgerton) presents an Emile de Becque who is at turns joyful, tortured, and soulful. His is undoubtedly the stand-out performance of the show, receiving thunderous applause of his powerful rendition of This Nearly Was Mine, as well as the show’s signature song, Some Enchanted Evening.
Gina Beck (Matilda, Showboat, Wicked) matches the performance, portraying a Nellie who is bubbly and optimistic despite her wartime surroundings, yet troubled by her whirlwind relationship with Emile and the challenge it presents to the strictly traditional world in which she was raised.
The themes reflected in the story are as relevant now as they were on the day it was written. At its crux, South Pacific presents characters divided – by race, by life experience, even by the languages they speak – all forced into close proximity by the small island they inhabit. The conflict this proximity creates is the same we see in the world around us, bred by prejudice and misunderstanding.
Rogers and Hammerstein’s expressive score is brought to life by a full orchestra under the supervision of David Cullen and Theo Jamieson. From rousing ensemble numbers like There is Nothin’ Like a Dame to the wistful favourite Bali Ha’i, it’s an experience that no theatre fan should risk missing.
South Pacific will be playing at Leeds Grand Theatre until 5th November. Grab a ticket now at Leedsheritagetheatres.com