South Pacific must have more totally familiar songs than almost any other musical. Nothing Like a Dame, Bloody Mary, Younger Than Springtime…it’s a joyful list and the cast of Wellington Operatic Society’s new show made the most of every single one.
When Caz Redstone and Alan Coles, the star-crossed lovers, at the heart of the story opened the evening with a beautifully sung duet Some Enchanted Evening they set the standard very high indeed but the large cast more than lived up to it.
Nancy Powell-Brace as the manic hustler Bloody Mary enthralled the large first-night audience with her swagger, perfect comic timing and marvellous voice. Yet she met her match in John Skittrell’s finely-judged Luther Billis, a great singer with the comic chutzpah of a young Sinatra.
He led a fine male chorus of a dozen young(ish) US sailors in a powerful, perfectly timed, performance of Nothing Like a Dame that really did have the tingle factor. Huge credit to OpSoc for coming up with so many male performers when musical theatre can often be dominated by women.
Speaking of men onstage, the show had its Poldark-moments when Oli Redstone threw his shirt to the wings and performed bare-chested for several scenes, not least his affecting duet with Liat (Catherine Vicarage) whose dancing was quite superb during a moving rendition of the classic Happy Talk.
The tunes may be familiar to most of us but that has its pitfalls unless they are performed faultlessly, which they were by a terrific orchestra under veteran Musical Director Hilary Wickham. Special mention perhaps to Louise Toomer, whose clarinet has probably never worked so continuously.
Having around 25 people dancing on a relatively small stage like the Wellesley is a tough call but choreographer Christiana Green worked wonders especially in the way she used the prancing coquettish exuberance of Nellie as she flirted her way around the sailors.
Director Monica Spalding can be very proud of having created a South Pacific that delivers all the great memories and set-pieces in a way that makes it fresh, vivid and enjoyable to a new generation.
Every member of the cast from backstage to the children playing Ngana and Jerome can rightly be proud of a wonderful show.
Photos: Andy Jones, Shooting Pixels