Saturday 17 August 2019

Review: All’s not fair in love and war revival

Musical: South Pacific, National Concert Hall

The National Concert Hall in Dublin.
The National Concert Hall in Dublin.

Pat O'Kelly

The Rathmines and Rathgar Musical Society has waited 20 years to revive the evergreen Rodgers and Hammerstein show South Pacific.

It comes in a lively production through director Garry Mountaine while Marina Kealy's choreography keeps cast and chorus nimbly on their toes.

John O'Donoghue's set creates its own atmosphere and video projection combines old newsreel footage with what one might call 'Reality TV'.

Set in Polynesia towards the end of WW2, South Pacific centres around US nurse Nellie Forbush who falls in and out of love with expatriate French planter Emile de Becque.

There is another romance between US lieutenant Joseph Cable and a young native Liat, and while the Forbush/de Becque affair ends happily, Cable is killed in action.

South Pacific also enjoys comic turns through wheeler-dealer petty officer Luther Billis and Bloody Mary, a kind of hawker who, learning English from US marines, says more than her prayers!

But South Pacific would be nothing without Richard Rodgers' music and several of its numbers are classics in their own right.

The R and R revival is enhanced through Orla Walsh's portrayal of Nellie Forbush. She finds the emotional heart of her role perfectly and, with Brendan Farrell's Billis, also catches the burlesque of Honey Bun excellently. There is character in all she does.

Mellow-voiced Kenneth O'Regan cuts a handsome figure as Emile. Vocally matters are less secure and while This Nearly Was Mine reaches a powerful climax, his earlier Some Enchanted Evening sounds nervous and uneven.

Sean Kenny makes a highly credible Cable with his Younger Than Springtime particularly sensitive and if I find Bloody Mary's call to Bali Ha'i less than alluring, Kathy Kelly gives her Happy Talk enduring appeal.

The rest of the cast and chorus offer lively zest while conductor Gearoid Grant sees Rodgers' score retains all its magic.

Irish Independent

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