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REVIEW: South Pacific (UK Tour) [Musical Theatre, Glasgow]

Updated: Sep 20, 2023

Theatre Royal, Glasgow

4 October 2022


South Pacific UK Tour poster featuring Julian Ovenden and Gina Beck

This is a gorgeous new production of the much loved Rodgers and Hammerstein classic.

There is a large, extremely talented, ensemble cast of around 30, and their every step is choreographed to make maximum use of the revolving stage. The revolve works well here to ensure everyone has room to move around.

The first thing that stood out to me was the beautiful voices of the male chorus.

When the 12 Seabees (US Navy guys) sing together, the sound coming off the stage is glorious! It reminded me of when the miners sing together in Billy Elliot... so powerful.

'Nothing like a dame' is a highlight. And Douggie McMeekin is the perfect scene-stealing Luther Billis, the joker of the pack who dreams of getting to Bali H'ai (and to the island girls!).

Next, the staging: The background is a simple corrugated iron number, onto which scenery and lighting is projected. It sounds basic but it worked well and it cleverly seemed to disappear when need be. For example in the Bali H'ai scene the stage is lit in oranges and purples as flaming lanterns circle the stage. I don't think I've ever seen a simple stage look more beautiful.

A purple and orange lit stage with lot of candles in baskets on and above the stage

Gina Beck leads the show as perky US nurse Nellie Forbush. And Julian Ovenden is utterly divine as French plantation owner with a past, Emile de Becque. What a voice! I can't be the only one who left the theatre completely in love with Julian? It wasn't just me, right - it was everyone? OK, good. I thought so.

Julian Ovenden and Gina Beck in South Pacific

It must be over 20 years since I last saw South Pacific but I still knew every word to every song. There are some musical theatre classics in this score but there have been a few changes too. Most notably 'Happy Talk' is now a slow, more sombre number. It feels right - this was a good choice.

Bloody Mary, perfectly played by Joanna Ampil is still a funny and ultimately heartbreaking character, but here she seems less of a caricature.

This new production is highly recommended and exquisitely performed by a superb cast. It's worth seeing and you'll be singing the songs for weeks.

[Review first posted on Instagram 9 October 2022]

A review of South Pacific (UK Tour) [Musical Theatre, Glasgow]

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