Theatre Review: South Pacific @ New Wimbledon Theatre

By Johnny Fox Last edited 71 months ago
Theatre Review: South Pacific @ New Wimbledon Theatre

If you thought £92.50 including booking fee was going it a bit for an average stalls seat at the Barbican’s Lincoln Center production of South Pacific you’ll be delighted to know that substantially the same show, with the same leads, is currently available for less than half that and your Zone 3 Oyster.

When successful London musicals set off on tour, it’s generally to places like Manchester or Newcastle where despite lower seat prices, the train fare would cripple any opportunity to see them on an awayday. But the bonus ball of producers ATG is that they also own theatres in Wimbledon and Richmond to which they bring their number one tours (first rate King’s Speech, Madness of George III both recently at Richmond, top price £35). South Pacific docks at Wimbledon for the rest of the month, tickets £15-45.

It’s a richer and darker South Pacific than you’ll have seen at your mum’s amateur operatic society – Bartlett Sher's production isn’t shy of highlighting the casual racism and sex tourism of American military personnel in wartime postings. Even though a bit 40-ish for a newly-recruited Navy nurse, Samantha Womack handles well the anguished reaction of the dumb blonde from Arkansas (racially segregated until 1957) to a lover with two Polynesian children, and the direction, underscore and lighting of the pimping of Bloody Mary’s daughter Liat to Lt Joe Cable is carefully studied too.

As well as the Barbican leads Womack, Alex Ferns and a fetching upcoming Australian Daniel Koek (you’d change that, wouldn’t you?) as Joe Cable there are two outstanding performances – one from Hawaiian actress Loretta Ables Sayre who played Bloody Mary in the original Lincoln Center production and gives a sensational rendition of the complex character, with stunning singing particularly in 'Happy Talk' which suddenly doesn’t seem a one-dimensional number any more.

The second is truly a highlight of the show since the new casting of veteran Jean Valjean/Phantom Matthew Cammelle is perfection. He has the dashing 40s movie-star look for Emile De Becque, and a glorious combination of unclouded operatic baritone with excellent musical theatre diction. South Pacific is an odd show in that it gives away its money shot number ‘Some Enchanted Evening’ barely 10 minutes after the overture, but the second act climax of Cammelle’s powerful and emotionally resonant ‘This Nearly Was Mine’ brought the house down with shouts of ‘Bravo’.

If that isn't incentive enough to pop down to Wimbledon, here's a video of Joe Cable/Daniel Koek with his shirt - and everything else - off, for a charity photoshoot.

South Pacific continues at the New Wimbledon Theatre until 31 March. Tickets available here.

Last Updated 22 March 2012