SOUTH PACIFIC REVIEW. Classic musical. Music: Richard Rodgers. Lyrics: Oscar Hammerstein 11. Book: Oscar Hammerstein 11 and Joshua Logan. Director/Choreographer: Kyla Thorburn. Sets/Costumes: Michael Mitchell. Sound: Liam Cookson. Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra directed by Alastair Cockburn. Presented by G&S. At Artscape until 10 August 2019.
SHEILA CHISHOLM reviews
A pleasing offshoot of attending every G&S production over the last decade is to see how young cast members have blossomed into mature artistes. Many were in this cast, who acted, sang and danced with a precision and enthusiasm that gave stunning life to this latest G&S production – South Pacific, a wartime love story.
In particular were Stephan le Roux – as wealthy planter Emile de Becque and Sian Atterbury – as leading Nurse Nellie Forbush.
A natural talent coupled with intelligence, sound voice training, dedication and strong stage presence are important. However, to bring out a musical’s full emotional and musical depth, an experienced, knowledgeable director and musical director are essential.
In position of director/choreographer Kyla Thorburn ranks tops. As does musical director Alastair Cockburn, who guided first-grade playing from the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra – special merit mention to the brass.
A dangerous mission
Framed in a bamboo proscenium arch, South Pacific is set post 1941’s infamous Pearl Harbour raid, to shortly after 1942’s Thanksgiving celebrations (Soft Shoe Shuffle). GI’s have been deployed to a fictitious island to protect islanders from anticipated Japanese invasion.
Bored with inaction and with commissioned nurses off limits, Luther Billis (Robert Shenton), Stewpot (Jan Mostert) and bespeckled Professor (Kyle Roets) lead Seebees in a merry dance routine (There is Nothing Like a Dame). Trio leader Shenton is a instinctive comic – look out for his duet (Honey Bun) with Atterbury to whom he shows unexpected empathy when delivering Emile’s flowers.
Lt Joseph Gable (Simon Thompson) is under orders to persuade Emile de Basque to accompany him to Bali Hai to observe Japanese activity in the South Pacific and report back to H.Q. There Cpt George Brackett (John Carne) and Cmdr William Harrison (Wayne Hendricks) are (impatiently) waiting for radio operator Bob McCaffrey (Daryl Brown) to receive information that would alert American forces to attack – before being attacked.
It’s a dangerous mission which Emile initially refuses.
He and Nellie have fallen in love (Some Enchanted Evening) and she accepts his proposal. Until she learns he has two children Ngana (Zozibini Mbira) and Jerome (Mnqweno Mashicila (Dites-Moi) by his (deceased) Polynesian wife. Built in racial prejudices take their toll (I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair), as it does with Gable and adorable Liat (Laura-Jo Diedericks) (You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught).
She’s Bloody Mary’s daughter (Siyavuya Vukutu) – a haglike vendor of grass skirts she sells to Seebees for ‘dollas’. She wants Gable to marry Liat (Happy Talk) and her angry profanities know no bounds when he cannot overcome his racial prejudices to do so (You’ve Got to Be Taught To Hate).
Assisted by AV visuals, extraordinary sound effects and Faheem Bardien’s lighting and Michael Mitchell’s sets, costumes bring the South Pacific islands, war zone, its tensions, its fun, its love, its beauty and underlying message right into Artscape’s opera house.
But back to Le Roux. Partnered by enchanting Atterbury, Le Roux turned in a brilliant moving and powerfully strong performance. Not even singing and speaking with French accent blurred his perfect diction.
This is an interpretation Rodgers and Hammerstein would have applauded.
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What: G&S South Pacific review
When: 20 July to 10 August 2019
Where: Artscape Opera House, Cape Town