‘South Pacific’ at the Barbican

If you were to judge a musical by the number of songs that are left ringing around your head at the end of the evening, then Lincoln Center Theatre’s award-winning adaptation of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific would score highly.

A slick production littered with talented actor-singers and fronted by sassy Samantha Womack (Nellie) and the breathtaking baritone of Paulo Szot (Emile De Becque), there is more to like about the show than there are faults to find.

With Second World War battles blaring between the USA and Japan, Nellie and Emile, an American nurse and French romantic respectively, find themselves drawn together on a lonely island in the South Pacific.

The musical tells the tale of their romance, a typically turbulent and at times tragic affair, which hinges on secrets of the past.

It was in 1949 when South Pacific first hit Broadway, scooping up nine Tony Awards in the process – a feat almost matched by this latest adaptation, which won seven in New York in 2008.

Ezio Pinza, an opera singer, played the role of the Frenchman in the original and director Bartlett Sher has followed suit in his choice of Szot. Unfortunately, despite his staggering vocal range, there is a palpable lack of chemistry between the opera singer and ex-Eastenders star, Womack. One can only hope Jason Howard has more success when he takes over Szot’s mantle from August 29 to September 21.

Womack, herself, seems to find most enjoyment in belting out the catchy tune, ‘I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair’, as if pining for her stage time with Szot to draw to a close.

The soppy ‘Some Enchanted Evening’ is sung with gusto and no shortage of passion by the duo, but it is the more light-hearted ditties, such as ‘Bali Ha’i’ and ‘There Is Nothin’ Like A Dame’ – featuring superb performances by Loretta Ables Sayer (Bloody Mary) and Luther Billis (Alex Ferns) – that truly capture the imagination.

South Pacific will be performed until October 1st at:

Barbican Theatre
Barbican Centre
Silk Street
The City

Box Office: 020 7638 8891

Image by Simon Annand

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