I looked forward to Basingstoke Amateur Theatrical’s production of South Pacific, as I have seen so many first class shows from this company. Whilst it was a very good production, I could not help feeling disappointed. Granted it was written over 60 years ago, but presentation and direction styles have changed; it all felt to me, rather old fashioned and the staging was basic and looked homemade.
Set in and around a U.S. Naval base during World War II, the serious themes of the plot, that were controversial when the original production debuted, now seem rather tame. But Rodgers and Hammerstein’s score is so full of lovely and well-known musical numbers that is guaranteed to please audiences.
Director and choreographer Martyn Knight had drawn some good individual performances from the cast and the solo and chorus singing was of a high standard. Hannah Baker-Saadat as Nellie Forbush, gave an excellent all round polished and charming performance as the nurse from Little Rock, Arkansas who falls for the handsome French ex-patriate Emile De Beque who is escaping his past. Robert Wilson as De Beque used his rich and mellow voice to great effect (although his dialogue strayed into a strange accent at times). As Luther Billis, the leader of the Seabees and jokester in chief, Martin Webb used his comic timing to good effect while Siobhan Chapman as Bloody Mary delivered an unusual but effective vocal style to the part.
Chorus work was well delivered but There is Nothing Like a Dame was very static and lacked energy, however I’m Gonna Wash that Man was terrific and Honey Bun – absolutely first class. The second act of South Pacific is, to me, distinctly inferior to the first and here, and in other places sometimes, the dialogue was a little flat - particularly in the smaller roles.
Despite my criticisms, the show flowed exceptionally well and with a full orchestra under the baton of Ian Hooper, delivered good value and was still most enjoyable.