Review: South Pacific Show – Theatre Royal Newcastle
South Pacific is a classic love story, set on a South Pacific island during World War II, featuring Julian Ovenden and Gina Beck who reprise their roles to lead a sensational cast of over thirty performers.
This production has been reimagined and is directed by Chichester Festival Theatre’s Artistic Director Daniel Evans and produced by Jamie Wilson, Jonathan Church Theatre Productions and Gavin Kalin.
TV favourite Lee Ross has the role of Luther Billis alongside Rob Houchen as Lieutenant Joseph Cable,Joanna Ampil as Bloody Mary and Sera Maehara as Liat.
The show South Pacific tells the story of plantation owner and Frenchman Emile de Becque, played by (Julian Ovenden) who falls in love with a ditzy Ensign Nellie Forbush (Gina Beck).
Becks character tells us how she wanted to see what was beyond her home town of Little Rock and see what was out in the world, yet in her openness to seeing the world and finding love, we also see her disdain at finding out her love interest Emile is a parent to mixed race children.
Through the show we learn if she is able to overcome this and see past these prejudices which posed the question are you born like this or made to be like this. Sadly the same prejudices can still exist many years on, and so makes this musical still very current in its highlighting of the issue.
Beck and Ovenden are stand out in this show. Beck portrays this young officer brilliantly and gives us a naivety that accompanies this young woman throughout whilst also being chirpy and fun. Ovenden as Emile de Becque brings an older, mature, serious and life lived attitude to his character. Both actors bring their voices and are outstanding both together and individually and are just a joy to watch.
Lieutenant Joseph Cable (Rob Houchen) is posted to the island with a mission in mind and he creates a secondary love story with local girl Liat, played by Sera Maehara. Houchen is enjoyable in his role and portrays a story which is in contrast to Becks. Maehara is limited in her role as the non English speaking Polynesian but speaks volumes in her dance routines which were beautiful to watch. Mother to Maehara is Joanna Ampil as Bloody Mary, who gives us a comical role especially in the first half of the show which appears to be more limited and serious in the second as she tries to marry her daughter off.
Douggie McMeekin as Billis is funny throughout and brings good humour along with the rest of the ensemble performers, all of whom are fantastic in support of scenes and dance choreography.
This show gave me a timeless classic feel and I came out thinking just how brilliantly beautiful the show was.
The stage has a rotating circular floor which provides a nice dimension to scenes and the transitions between them also. Lighting was also brilliant and helped set scenery and mood.
What makes this so enjoyable though is the score. Boasting one of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s most memorable, this much-loved musical features songs such as Some Enchanted Evening, I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair and Bali Ha’i.
As someone that didn’t know what to expect, I definitely recommend seeing this show while it is in town and taking a trip to the South Pacific.
South Pacific plays at Newcastle Theatre Royal on Tue 20 – Sat 24 Sep 2022 with evening performances each night at 7.30pm and matinee performances on Wednesday and Thursday at 2pm and Saturday at 2.30pm. Tickets are priced from £20.00 and can be purchased at www.theatreroyal.co.uk or from the Theatre Royal Box Office on 0191 232 7010.
Photo credit: Credit: Johan Persson