Theatre review: South Pacific

Samantha Womack as Nellie Forbush in South Pacific.
Samantha Womack as Nellie Forbush in South Pacific.

SOAPSTARS can find themselves unable to shake off the association with their character, even after playing numerous other roles.

But Samantha Womack more than cast off the shackles of Eastenders’ Ronnie Mitchell in this fantastic production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific.

If any doubt of this remained after she had begun speaking in Nellie Forbush’s southern drawl, this was completely blown away by her stunning singing performance and her youthful, enthusiastic and likeable Nellie.

The story of South Pacific is one familiar to many, and features well-loved musical theatre songs such as ‘Some Enchanted Evening’, ‘I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta my Hair’ and ‘Happy Talk’.

But what sets this Lincoln Centre Theater Production apart from the rest is the excellent casting.

In addition to Womack’s star turn, Matthew Camelle, as French plantation owner Emile De Becque, and Daniel Koek, who played Lieutenant Joseph Cable, showed off their incredible vocal talents with emotional performances of the songs about their tormented hearts.

Another former Eastenders actor, Alex Ferns, added a humorous element in his role as cheeky sailor Luther Billis, the leader of the boisterous and sexually-frustrated US Navy crew.

Their mischievous nature was exemplified best when teaching island native, and souvenir entrepreneur, Bloody Mary, a few choice words of English, which she could soon use to good effect!

Jodi Kimura, as Mary, enchanted the audience with her rendition of ‘Bali H’ai’ and though there is perhaps something a bit sinister in her efforts to make Lt Cable fall in love with her daughter Liat, she was also the much-needed link between island life and the American marines based there.

Though spattered with comedy and raunchy moments, the musical does in fact tackle a serious subject - that of racism.

This is explored through the mixed race relationships between De Becque and the dead mother of his mixed-race children and Joe and Liat, but despite dramatic moments, for Nellie and Emile at least, true love, reassuringly, does win through.

South Pacific runs at Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday 9th June.

by Helen Beighton.