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REVIEW: South Pacific, Watlington Players


By Richard Parr


It's become a Rodgers and Hammerstein classic and 70 years since it burst on to the Broadway stage, the musical South Pacific, has once again been brought to life by the enterprising Watlington Players.

The Players have never been afraid of a challenge and in this wonderfully bright and breezy production, the talented and enthusiastic cast transport us back to a sun-kissed tropical island amidst the background of Second World War conflict.

It is always a good sign when you leave a theatre after the final curtain and find yourselves humming the songs in the car on the way home.

Leading cast members. From left are Chris Hiam as U.S marine Joe Cable, Beth Jory as native girl Liat, Megan Abbott as nurse Nellie Forbush and David Brammer as Fenchman Emile de Becque
Leading cast members. From left are Chris Hiam as U.S marine Joe Cable, Beth Jory as native girl Liat, Megan Abbott as nurse Nellie Forbush and David Brammer as Fenchman Emile de Becque

That's what I and my friend found, not only humming but singing the words of such iconic songs as Some Enchanted Evening, There is Nothing Like a Dame and Bali High to mention a few.

Veteran Players stalwart Penny Cooke had her work cut out in her demanding joint role of director and choreographer.

Her confessed childhood love of this iconic show has never waned and she can be pleased by what has been achieved in this new interpretation of such a classic show.

Watlington Players creating lais for the show
Watlington Players creating lais for the show

The tale unfolds at such a lively pace that it is the interval before you know it.

David Brammer gives an impressive pivotal performance as the suave, French plantation owner, Emile de Becque,who falls in love with American nurse, Nellie Forbush.

Players veteran, Megan Abbott, gave everything to her part of Nellie, her natural and energetic style and mellifluous voice endearing her to the audience. Her romantic partnership with David was played with suitable conviction.

The second romantic leads are also well performed by Chris Hiam as Joe Cable and young native girl, Liat, played by Beth Jory.

They portray the young lovers with sincerity as we observe their tragic journey resulting from war and underlying racial issues.

Chris lent his voice particularly well in his rendition of Younger Than Springtime.

The show's principal leads are well supported by secondary leads Nerys Brooks as Bloody Mary and Simon Brooks as Luther Billis both bringing out the rich comedy of their roles.

Mr Brooks is hilarious in his literally "stomach -turning" belly dance routine - dressed in grass skirt and coconut shells - as part of the lively foot-tapping and colourful Thanksgiving concert-party number.

This show is full of well-known songs and they follow thick and fast - There is Nothing Like a Dame, A Cockeyed Optimist, I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Out of My Hair and A Wonderful Guy.

The music is in the capable hands of musical director and pianist Amy Power playing with a trio comprising keyboard, bass and drums, but never drowning out the voices.

When the audience arrive they are taken aback by Players' founder and life member Kate Carpenter's creative set design.

A nice touch is the leis garland offered to each audience member as they come through the main door before taking their seats.

Overall this was a wonderful, joyous opening night show.

It can be added to the impressive stable of past productions which have won this enterprising and successful village am-dram group so many deserved accolades over more than four decades of entertaining audiences.

The show continues tonight (Thursday) and tomorrow night (Friday) at 7.30pm and on Saturday, June 1 at 2.30pm and 7.30pm. Call 0845 052 9645 to book tickets.



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