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SOUTH PACIFIC Revival in London 
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Post SOUTH PACIFIC Revival in London
So the Bartlett Sher production of South Pacific has opened in London to mixed reviews. Some extracts:

In The Telegraph, Charles Spencer wrote:
Though not quite as lavish as the original Lincoln Centre production, this touring version with beautiful South Sea island designs and a fine 25-piece pit orchestra making the most of the brilliant score, still proves a moving and uplifting experience. . . . Paulo Szot, who starred in the Broadway production, brings charm, authority and a sense of Gallic melancholy to the plantation owner Emile de Becque, lending the musical an almost tragic grandeur at times.... Loretta Ables Sayre, who also starred in New York, brings a mixture of humour and chilling cupidity to the role of Bloody Mary, the islander who tries to make a profit out of warfare. She often makes you laugh out loud, but she makes you wince , too. Samantha Womack, once best known as Ronnie Mitchell in EastEnders, proves a delightfully engaging Nellie.... This is a production of almost continuous pleasure, a classic of American musical theatre revived with the love and respect it richly deserves.

In The Independent, Paul Taylor wrote:
It's handsomely, if sparingly, designed and alluringly lit. Using the sumptuous original orchestrations, a 25-piece band does ravishing justice to the indestructible score. Just to hear them play those haunting first three notes of "Bali Ha'i" is to feel the risky, seductive pull of exotic otherness distilled to its shiver-inducing essence. But for all the talk of how the production draws out the darkness of the racial issues by reincorporating discarded material, this comes across as a highly accomplished, but faintly bland and traditional treatment.... Unfortunately, there's next to no sexual chemistry between the two leading performers. That's symptomatic of a production that seems to have lost something in crossing the Atlantic and is deficient in that spark that turns respect into rapture.

In the Evening Standard, Henry Hitchings wrote:
It seems polished rather than dazzling - lyrical, occasionally beguiling but not truly powerful.... Samantha Womack is strong on carefully acted sweetness and silliness but her performance is efficient more often than it is engaging. Brazilian baritone Paulo Szot wields a greater intensity as Emile and is the undeniable star of the show. Even if his acting is limited, his voice is a thing of splendour.... There are better revivals of American musicals currently on offer in London and beyond.

Perhaps the most interesting statement came from this review:

In The Guardian, Michael Billington wrote:
This production arrives from the Lincoln Center in the US laden with seven Tony awards. But, perhaps because only two of the original cast have made the journey, it is a little hard to see why New Yorkers got so excited. It's a perfectly decent revival of a Rodgers and Hammerstein classic but with little of the pizzazz we expect to find in musicals at Chichester or Regent's Park. . . . The best reason for seeing this revival is to catch the Brazilian-born baritone Paulo Szot as Emile.... He brings to the role a commanding presence, a sense of solitude and a burnished tone that almost stops the show in "This Nearly Was Mine". But while Samantha Womack sings well as Nellie, she is quintessentially English to be wholly convincing as a naive nurse from Little Rock... It makes for a pleasant evening, but one that suggests New York has little to teach us about resurrecting the Broadway past.

There has always been a tension between Broadway and the West End about who does things better. I think both have had their successes and failures in translating hits from one side of the Atlantic to the other. But by almost all accounts, this was a superb production and I don't think it is just the Americans who think so. Just about everyone I know from outside the USA who saw the TV broadcast of the show seems to agree that the production was just about perfect in almost every way. Any other thoughts on the matter?

In lighter news, gossip columnist Baz Bamigboye has documented the breaking of Samantha Womack's toe during the show earlier this week and how she has carried on in spite of it. Some pictures there, including this one from the show itself:


Something bothers me about this Billis... and I've thought the same thing in other photos I've seen of him in the "Honey Bun" costume. It's something to do with the make-up, I think, which seems ill-suited to the kind of drag act he is doing and the context in which it takes place. It's just too blended, even though it's not perfectly blended in the way that a woman's makeup would be. Danny Burstein's makeup was more obviously garish and "put on".


Wed Aug 24, 2011 10:46 am
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Post Re: SOUTH PACIFIC Revival in London
I saw it yesterday. It was very good, but, as all the articles say, not outstanding. There wasn't much chemistry between the leads which didn't help despite the guy playing Emile being practically perfect in the role IMO. I liked the set, though.

Sun Sep 04, 2011 7:13 am
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Post Re: SOUTH PACIFIC Revival in London
I'm glad you enjoyed it guys.

Billis' make up is not always like this. It is more garish than that photo, I've never actually seen it like that.

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Wed Oct 12, 2011 4:07 am
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