South Pacific at Chichester Festival Theatre is truly an enchanted evening

REVIEW: South Pacific Chichester Festival Theatre
Gina Beck and Julian in South Pacific Photo by Johan PerssonGina Beck and Julian in South Pacific Photo by Johan Persson
Gina Beck and Julian in South Pacific Photo by Johan Persson

Review: Gary Shipton

It's not difficult to find a few words to sum up the long-awaited unveiling of Rodgers and Hammerstein's second world war musical set on a far flung island in the South Pacific

We could say it's Some Enchanted Evening - after perhaps the most famous number in the repertoire.

And it is.

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We could agree There is Nothin' Like a Dame when we sum up the leading lady Gina Beck.

And there isn't. She is utterly superb from the moment she sets foot on the stage to the final glittering conclusion.

We could observe that after more than a year in various stages of lockdown, a holiday of only two hours and fifty minutes spent on a South Pacific beach is the most delicious of treats.

Even if that sandy retreat is in reality the stage of Chichester Festival Theatre.

And we'd be right.

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But the honest truth is, there's no need for jeu de mots in giving a verdict on a musical that was destined for a non-existent 2020 summer season and has finally, like a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis, exploded in a sea of colour, sound and joy on to the stage.

This is simply superb. It is the tonic we have all been waiting for. It is perfect beyond fault.

Many people of a certain CFT age will remember seeing the 1958 film - either at the time or in subsequent TV repeats. Many recall its rather extraordinary use of colour filters which distracted rather than enhanced the viewing experience.

This revival, packed with some of R&H's greatest musical numbers, has no need for gimmicks. It fizzes with energy, with sheer professionalism and magnetism, and with a cast led by Beck and Julian Ovenden who absolutely nail every single note.

This is feelgood at its best.

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As the lyrics tell us, this is a hundred and one pounds of fun - and the audience trips out the socially distanced auditorium feeling both Younger Than Springtime and Cockeyed Optimists that maybe, just maybe, the opening of this wonderful show signals a return of the magic that is our CFT.

Gary Shipton