An enchanting evening at theatre

South Pacific stars Samantha Womack and Matthew Cammelle
South Pacific stars Samantha Womack and Matthew Cammelle

ENSIGN Nellie Forbush has been washing that man right outta her hair for more than six decades now, but she is still no nearer to getting rid of him, as the touring production of South Pacific reaches Nottingham’s Theatre Royal this week.

It seems particularly fitting that the show is being revived in Jubilee Year, for 60 years ago Mary Martin (the mother of Dallas star Larry Hagman) was wowing West End audiences with her portrayal of Nellie. So how does the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic fare today, with Samantha Womack in the leading role?

Combine a strong cast with a superb score which includes Bali Ha’i, Happy Talk, Honey Bun and that hymn to heterosexuality There is Nothing Like a Dame, and you have a surefire winner.

Samantha Womack is perhaps best known from her days in Albert Square but although she has excelled on stage before in Guys and Dolls, South Pacific must rank as the performance of her career. She is feisty and handles her big numbers – A Cockeyed Optimist, A Wonderful Guy etc. with aplomb.

Set during World War 11 on a United States naval base threatened by Japanese forces which have occupied a string of islands nearby, the story of Nellie’s love affair with Emile de Becque, a middle-aged Frenchman who has settled on the island, unfolds. Meanwhile, Lieutenant Joseph Cable, a marine officer, finds love with a native islander and a tale of love, humour, romance and racism unfolds.

Matthew Cammelle (de Becque) almost lifts the roof off with superb versions of the showstoppers Some Enchanted Evening and This Nearly Was Mine but Daniel Koek (Cable) loses nothing in comparison as he excels with Younger Than Springtime.

There are also standout performances from Jodi Kimura (Bloody Mary) and the splendid Alex Ferns as Luther Billis, leader of the Seabees and up for every scam going.

The overtures – the orchestra is conducted by Jae Alexander – deserve a credit in their own right and a slick set helps what is a long show move along at pace.

Indeed an evening of true enchantment.