Tag Archive: Rodgers and Hammerstein

There is nothin’ like a dame. Nothing in this world.

Well, there is … actually. Nothing like having women regarded as more than aesthetic creatures, which is a fault of the original script. But I can’t be too hard on Rodgers and Hammerstein and the sexism in South Pacific as it was ground-breaking on opening more than 70 years ago for another reason of equality. 

South Pacific tells the story of the US Navy stationed on a Pacific Island during World War II. The main plot focuses on the romance between an American nurse and a French plantation owner with the subplot of a US Marine’s flirtations with a Tonkinese girl. The topic of racial prejudice is included in both, way ahead of its time and thankfully, addressed.

South Pacific — New Alexander Theatre — September 30 2022

The term iconic is not one I use often but the fact that most of the numbers are instantly recognisable says how big this musical is. A Cockeyed Optimist, Some Enchanted Evening, There is Nothin’ Like a Dame, Bali Ha’i, I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair, I’m in Love with a Wonderful Guy, Younger Than Springtime and not forgetting Happy Talk. That’s eight straight off that I knew before I saw it for the first time a few years ago. Admitted, the 70-year-old script and score is dated but this production induced a new freshness with a stark but simple backdrop of corrugated panelling. Here shadows were projected with basic scenery wheeled on and off when necessary. It worked. Good use was also made of a rotating stage, especially in numbers, giving two different perspectives.

South Pacific — New Alexander Theatre — September 30 2022

Julian Ovenden gave a superb performance as a somewhat younger Emile than I have seen in the past and was well matched with Gina Beck (Nellie Forbush), equally excellent, particularly in vocal numbers.

It was nice in this production to see the character of Bloody Mary less of a stereotype in grass skirts, but quirky instead with individuality. Superb by Joanna Ampil. Also strong was Rob Houchen in the role of Lt Cable with an equally stong voice as were all the principals. Then there was Luther Billis, played wonderfully by Douggie McMeekin, giving a huge helping of comic relief to the show.

Supporting well was Sera Maehara (Liat) who excelled in individual and company dance, plus David Birrell (Capt. Brackett) and Stephen John Davis (Cmdr. Harbison) who made an amusing double act at times.

In this production, choreography was by Ann Yee with musical direction from Jon Laird. The director was Daniel Evans.

One thing to note, particularly for amateur societies thinking of doing this show when available, the audience seemed mostly 70+. Even so, the auditorium was still full, showing there is life in South Pacific yet.

The show is still touring in the next few weeks at Edinburgh, Canterbury and Leeds. Well worth an evening out.

South Pacific — New Alexander Theatre — September 30 2022


Antony N Britt 

I’d not seen the stage version of The King and I before, only the classic Yul Brynner movie and the near forgotten, short-lived TV series, Anna and the King. However, the story is the same. British colonial governess takes up a position in the palace of the King of Siam, educating his children amidst a plot of culture clashes, romance, and a heavy dose of song.

So, how was it? Must be honest, from the start there’s a dated feel to not only the songs, but the script itself. It’s a good show, and I did enjoy it, but some of the magic has been lost in the mists of time. And to add to the tiredness, the image I got was a 1950s vision of what 19th century Siam would have been.

The production had a decent set and lots of colour, particularly in the costumes, but I didn’t have empathy for the King. He’s an ignorant tyrant and no matter what excuse you make for cultural differences, I could not get past the image he portrayed. I had also been warned about the Uncle Tom’s Cabin section which goes on for about fifteen minutes; however, I enjoyed it. It’s surreal and abstract in a way, and I quite like that.

Of the songs, there were three which I immediately had in my mind: I Whistle a Happy Tune, Getting to Know You, and Shall We Dance? And at the end of the show, those were still the only tunes I recalled as most others were generic, especially the solos. Okay, I’m not a fan of solos anyway as I think they reduce the effects of musical theater, but these in King and I were very forgettable.

On the day, Anna was played in fine fashion by Annalene Beechey with good voice and character. Also, despite not liking the King as a person, the ruler of Siam was in excellent hands with Kok Hwa Lie. Supporting well were: Eu Jin Hwang (Kralahome), Jessica Gomes-Ng (Tup Tim), Sunny Yeo (Lady Thaing), Ethan Le Phong (Lun Tha), Phillip Bullcock (Captain Orton/Sir Edward Ramsay), Aaron Teoh (Chulalongkorn), William Mychael Lee (Phra Alack) and Joseph Black (Louis). The orchestra was conducted by Chris Mundy with choreography from Christopher Gattelli. The director was Bartlett Sher

I think the length of time it has taken between seeing the show and writing this review tells a tale of how little an impression was left on me. Thank heavens for my notes. Therefore, the message is this. Beware of sending me to see anything iconic because instead of praise for the Holy Grail, you might get a description of The Emperor’s New Clothes.


Antony N Britt

The stage was alive in Birmingham with the Sound of Music in the form of Rodgers and Hammersteins’ world famous show.

The Sound of Music – Birmingham Hippodrome, 25 June 2016

As one of my favourite musical films, I did wonder how seeing the live version would compare. Yes, it is different, of course, with no place on stage for the Austrian mountains. There is also the matter of songs excluded from the 1965 film and a slightly different order of others. No matter. After all, the stage version came first and unlike the film, each performer in front of me sang their own lines.

Having recently seen a magnificent set at the same venue for Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music was the complete opposite in comparison. The barest of backdrops and a sparse scattering of props was in keeping with a small cast. However, this did not distract from the experience. The performances on stage were exceptional enough that any superficial extras were not needed.

So how did a live version of a popular film match up? Excellent, as it happens. I loved the numbers, How Can Love Survive and No Way to Stop It and cannot understand why they were omitted from the film in the first place. Also, I do prefer the more sympathetic characterisation of Elsa, the Baroness and that Rolf helps the family escape at the climax of the show.

As well as the songs already mentioned, other musical highlights for me were Do-Re-Mi, So Long, Farewell and Something Good.

Portraying the part of Maria was The Voice Runner Up, Lucy O’Byrne with Andrew Lancel (more familiar as DI Manson in The Bill) as Captain Von Trapp. Max Detweiler was played by Duncan Smith, Elsa Schraeder by Lucy Van Gasse, Liesl by Annie Holland with Jan Hartley as The Abbess. There were also good performances by all of the children on duty which topped off a fine day, indeed.

The Sound of Music was produced by Bill Kenwright, directed by Martin Connor with musical direction from David Steadman and Tim Whitting. Choreography was by Bill Deamer with Gary McCann on Design.

So was it a case of so long and farewell when I left the theatre as I considered my verdict? Well, unlike recent shows I’ve seen, I haven’t been motivated to play the London Cast CD since. I felt the show was a little let down by the meagre set and maybe the whole thing could have been more dynamic, but the cast pulled it round. And I’d say it was still an enjoyable experience which I would happily see another version of in the future.

The Sound of Music – Birmingham Hippodrome, 25 June 2016




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