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East Midlands
posted/updated: 30 Oct 2014 -
South Pacific
Rodgers and Hammerstein
society/company: Northampton Musical Theatre Company (directory)
performance date: 29 Oct 2014
venue: Royal & Derngate Theatre, Northampton
reviewer/s: David Supper (Sardines review)

Bloody Mary! Bloody Hell! (What a great performance!)

A shining light on the stage at the Royal and Derngate was without doubt Susie Pack's performance of Bloody Mary. She displayed the consummate skills of a professional in singing, comedy, movement and timing. 'Happy Talk' was a delight to watch.

Elsewhere there was some excellent singing from Rachel James (Nellie Forbrush), Matthew Berrill (Emile de Becque) and Michael Bowie(Lt. Joseph Cable). I find musicals enjoyable because of the mix of three key elements, singing, dancing and acting and I was disappointed that the latter two did not match up to the quality of the first.

Despite the convention of the musical format, the audience have to believe the story being presented, it is not just a vehicle for a collection of well-known and loved songs. Here the story stumbled along without a great deal of passion, despite the thrill of 'Some Enchanted Evening' and the 'instant love' of the Lieutenant and the native girl Liat (Amelia Knaggs), somehow the passion was missing, as was the heat of this semi-tropical paradise, didn't anybody sweat?

I felt a bit sorry for Dan Hodson (Luther Billis), an excellent comic actor with a great deal of potential, who struggled to raise a laugh because of the absence of a decent 'straight man (or woman)' He came into his own during the Thanksgiving scene, not least because of a pair of strategically placed coconut shells!

One of my fondest memories of this show is the number ' I'm Gonna Wash This Man Right Outa My Hair'. Regrettably this big production number was far too muted, the lack of movement by the chorus in this (and other numbers) did not help, and the excitement was subsequently lost. Overall the dance routines were too similar and mere shadows of what they should have been.

Much of this criticism must be laid at the door of the director (Martyn Knight), who allowed clumsy scene changes, poor lighting and lack of choreography to mar an otherwise excellent musical, which was held together by a first-rate orchestra conducted by Graham Tear, who regrettably remained invisible.

I really wanted to be entertained, but as always we come up against technical problems, not least of which were the mikes. Why were some of the chorus miked and others not? Especially those that had key lines at critical moments and these were lost - a great pity.

However, despite all of this, the enthusiasm and energy of the cast was very enjoyable and many of the scenes finished on a terrific high! Everyone connected with theatre should always remember the old adage 'leave your audience wanting more' and judging by last night's patrons that was exactly what NMTC achieved.


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