REVIEW: South Pacific

theatre090811_03
BARBICAN 8/9/11

WOH, woh, woah… here’s the thing, straight up: the first half of this otherwise splendid revival of South Pacific goes on until Christmas. 2012. Somewhere in the editing – either out of pure indulgence or respect for Rodgers and Hammerstein’s original – they have ended up with an epic opening act.

Seriously, it goes on and on and on. So, no matter how good this show, transferred from Broadway, is – and it is very good – you could feel the silent deep vein thrombosis complaints all around the stalls.

It was there in the coughs. It was there in the fidgeting.

They had sung Some Enchanted Evening three times before the ice creams.

In contrast, the second half whizzes by so quickly that you can only marvel at how a woman can reverse her blind racism, a WW2 soldier on assignment can fall in and out of love, and the war against the Japanese can be wrapped up in such a short time span.

The lop-sided slicing is a shame because, as I said, it is very good. Very, very good, in fact. Samantha Womack, former EastEnder and one-time Eurovision loser (then under the surname Janus), is in complete control as WW2 nurse Nellie.

Singing, dancing, joking, tapping – she holds the whole thing together. It would be half the show without her. The set piece which eventually tunes into I’m Going To Wash That Man Right Out Of My Hair is a stand-out moment.

Womack plays a small-town American woman who has never read a book but still manages to snag the wise old panda of a French colonel who lives up on the hill. It’s nothing to do with her short uniform, blonde hair and all of that – it’s love. LOVE.

The story runs that she almost throws him to the sea when she realises he has two black children from a previous life back at home, only to quickly realise that racism is plain silly and love conquers all.

That’s musicals, folks – a world where characters with broad drama school American accents completely change tack with the instant pill of a sing-song.

The curiosities are all part of the fun, though – and whenever the dated plot throws up a loose end, it can be smartly glossed over with a resident cast of hooting Popeye sailors and grass-skirted people leaping about singing There’s Nothing Like A Dame. Another old Eastender Alex Fearns – you know, Trevor, the one who beat up Little Mo – excels in this regard as laundry crooner Luther Billis.

The blood clots from part one are well rewarded.

%d bloggers like this: