Tony award-winning South Pacific is nostalgic fun
Expectations for the revival of 1949 musical classic South Pacific are high – the show won seven Tony awards in its Broadway debut three years ago.
The opening scene in which wartime nurse Nellie, fresh from America’s Deep South, gets to know mysterious Frenchman Emile is, however, a bit slow and the connection between the two never really gains momentum.
He is an intellectual and an exile who headed to the South Pacific after killing a man on the grounds of moral intervention and she a simple country girl who admits to having barely read a book.
But this love story is never really focused on the enthralling bond between the two but more so on the prejudices Nellie has to overcome to get her man.
She is initially shocked to find out Emile has two mixed-race children from a previous relationship with a Polynesian woman and watching her reject societal bigotry in the final scene would no doubt have been both shocking and exhilarating for an enlightened Forties audience.
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In 2011 it is less so.
But where this play appears somewhat redundant in it message, it makes up for in the musical score, sumptuous visual set and performances.
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Samantha Womack’s sweet, velvety voice makes her scenes as Nellie particularly enjoyable.
Her rendition of I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair is playful and has a charming old world feel to it.
The group scenes, with female-hungry skivvies and bikini-clad nurses are lively and well choreographed.
A few acrobatics from the lads bring the scenes up to date.
South Pacific is an enjoyable night out but where it was once ground-breaking theatre, it is now nostalgic fun.
South Pacific runs at the Barbican until October 1.