Tag Archives: Richard Rodgers

REVIEW: South Pacific – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

Unlike other works of the period, Richard Rodgers, Joshua Logan and Oscar Hammerstein II’s 1949 musical South Pacific, has largely stood the test of time. Originally written with the intention of sending a strong progressive message on racism, it also benefits from a re-imagination in this incarnation originally staged at Chichester Festival Theatre in 2021. There are re-orchestrations, the introduction of a prologue, additional music from the 1958 film version and most importantly, a fixing of the racial overtones and elimination of the ethnic stereotypes in the characterisations of Bloody Mary and her daughter Liat.

Set during World War Two on an island in the Pacific, it is essentially two intertwining love stories; Ensign Nelly Forbush (Gina Beck) falls for older plantation owner Emile de Becque (Julian Ovenden) but despite the strength of her feelings, Arkansas native Nellie struggles to accept his mixed-race children. The tandem love story is that of Princeton educated, US Marine Lieutenant Cable (Rob Houchen) and Tonkinese woman Liat (Sera Maehara), and the pressures on their mixed-race relationship.

The set is simplistic, projections on a corrugated back drop with different scenery rolled in and out, and no less effective for it. The lighting too is gorgeous and atmospheric. It all provides a darkness that the subject matter warrants and a suitable back-drop to the talent on stage.

From the first swelling bars of this lush-sounding orchestra to the final notes, this is a work of infinite quality, it simply oozes perfection from every pore, there is not a weak link among this large and hugely talented cast. Gina Beck is suitably perky as nurse Nelly and a rich-voiced Julian Ovenden is perfectly pitched as a more realistic, well-rounded, less caricature Emile. Instead of swanning around in a white linen suit, this Emile looks as if he might actually work on a plantation in the south Pacific. The male chorus are unmatched in the memory of this writer, the sound they create is simple sumptuous, and the female cast give them a good run for their money. The two child actors who portray Emile’s children are again, much more realistic, less stereotyped. The casting overall, couldn’t be better.

That such subject matter, and songs like Carefully Taught, shone a light at racism in America in 1949 is brave indeed, but there’s a discomfort to some of the material to 21st Century ears. Of particular note, is the re-orchestration of the usually saccharine Happy Talk, sung by Bloody Mary (Joanna Ampil). Here it is a pleading tune of desperation at the fate of her daughter and the American serviceman, instead of a silly ditty written (in a now uncomfortable to hear) pidgin English.

Almost every aspect of this production is to be lauded, from its design, its re-imagination, re-orchestrations and ultimately its astounding cast. This is a production not to be missed.

Runs until 8 October 2022 | Image: Johan Persson

Originally published at The Reviews Hub

REVIEW: The King and I – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II’s The King and I is undoubtedly one of the finest musical’s from the Golden Age of musical theatre and so rarely seen that this touring version of New York’s Lincoln Centre production has been waited on with baited breath. Thankfully this sumptuous staging with its universally first class cast, deserves every plaudit thrown its way.

There has been plenty of artistic license taken when adapting Margaret Langdon’s Anna and the King of Siam, which was in turn taken from British governess Anna Leonowens’ own memoir of her time teaching the children of King Mongkut of Siam’s children. However, the good old-fashioned plot gives the audience something to hold on to, it’s richly drawn, there’s humour, pathos, laughter, tears, and the roller coaster of emotions in the beautifully constructed script, make the three-hour running time race by.

As much as the lavish set and costumes, the familiar rich tunes and the atmospheric lighting transport you, it’s the cast on whose shoulders the experience lies. Annalene Beechey delivers an assured central performance as Anna, she has a formidable but perfectly controlled presence and diction that would make Julie Andrews jealous. Kok-Hwa Lie as Kralahome the King of Siam, manages to balance the duality of the monarch – on one hand striving to modernise his country while still enjoying the trappings of tyrranical rule, and all with some humour thrown in. Cezarah Bonner delivers a regal performance as no.1 wife Lady Thiang and on as Tup Tim, Jessica Gomes-Ng is an absolute revelation, a real star in the making, she has a sublimely beautiful voice. Worthy of note are Ethan Le Phong as Lun Tha and Aaron Teoh as Prince Chulalongkorn, as are the most adorable and talented children as the off-spring of the King. It’s a rare thing – there isn’t a weak link anywhere, every single person on the stage is the finest actor/singer/dancer for the role.

Worth mentioning too, and utterly mesmerising, is the ballet within the play, Tup Tim’s adaptation of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, The Small House of Uncle Thomas, is so beautifully executed that you can’t peel your eyes from the stage.

This production of The King and I is an entirely satisfying evening of theatre, richly deserving acclaim. It is masterfully executed, replete with gorgeous detail, it looks and sounds glorious and has a phenomenally talented cast. From the overall design to the tiniest details in the fabrics and lighting, and the rich orchestra, it all adds up to an evening of infinite quality. The word unmissable is thrown about lightly but this is a truly unmissable show.

Runs until 8 February 2020 | Image: Matthew Murphy

This review was originally written for The Reviews Hub

REVIEW: The Sound of Music – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

This article was originally written for and published by The Public Reviews at: http://www.thepublicreviews.com/the-sound-of-music-kings-theatre-glasgow/

Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein II’s, musical theatre classic The Sound of Music is still managing to delight audiences, almost 60 years on since its first appearance on stage.

On Gary McCann’s impressive set, complemented by Nick Richings’ perfectly judged lighting design, with an exquisite sounding orchestra led by David Steadman, and under Martin Connor’s sure-footed direction, this polished production is a quality piece of musical theatre.

Danielle Hope is a fresh-faced and youthful Maria (saddled however with a rather unfortunate wig) who has clearly been taking lessons at the Julie Andrews’ School of Musical Theatre Diction, her dialogue is razor sharp and her enunciation would make Miss Andrews proud. She is also in possession of an impressive vocal range which she uses to great effect in these much-loved classics. If criticism were to be made though, she does lack a little of the vitality and spark that the role requires.

Hope has in support, a strong ensemble cast: the troupe of von Trapp children are a beguiling bunch, delightfully un-precocious and singing like angels, they manage to bring a realism to roles which have, in other productions, tended to verge upon the saccharine sweet. Jan Hartley’s Mother Abbess rendition of the anthem “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” is also worthy of praise; quite literally a show-stopper, bringing as it does the curtain down on Act One and Steven Houghton is a solid, if at times a little stiff, Captain von Trapp, he does however deliver a well-judged, heart-felt “Edelweiss” as the show builds to its conclusion.

Where the 2015 tour deviates from previous productions is that it trims Maria’s “I Have Confidence” (possibly due to its already lengthy running time) and the Nazi threat that pervades the big screen version is somewhat missing here. However, when the swastika background drops down during the family’s appearance at the music festival, there is a tangible mood shift in the auditorium.

It remains a great story, with truly great songs and there is much to praise here in this deftly-handled production with its solid and highly accomplished cast. It is so well-loved, by so many, that to criticise it is like kicking a puppy. If a show can make the corners of your mouth turn up involuntarily into a smile on recognition of the first notes of a tune, then it has got to be a winner in anyone’s book.

Runs until Saturday 28 February 2015 then touring

Photo credit: Pamela Raith