Theatre Review: South Pacific at the Barbican

Wartime romance will sweep you off your feet among azure seas and palm trees.

In its original five year stint on Broadway, South Pacific wowed post-World War Two audiences, earned nine Tony Awards and became one of the best loved musicals.

And 60 years on, Lincoln Centre Theatre, which revived the Rogers and Hammerstein production across the pond in 2008 to widespread acclaim, has brought the show to the London stage.

While its intensely romantic plot true of a bygone era will leave those that remember it the first time round blissfully nostalgic, younger audiences may find the whirlwind love story slightly cheesy – yet, still thoroughly enjoyable.

But the poignant scenes portraying the longing, hopes and fears of the American forces stranded on unfamiliar soil during the war and the underlying prejudices explored ensures it resonates with all audiences in this modern day.

With touching precision and superb vocals, former Eastender Samantha Womack stars as nurse Nellie, who falls for French plantation owner Emile de Beque, played superbly by opera singer Paulo Szot, who clinched a Tony for his performance stateside.

And Alex Ferns as navy sailor Luther Bills and Loretta Ables Sayre as Bloody Mary provide a welcome dose of comedy throughout.

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Classic songs such as I’m Gonna Wash that Man Right Outa my Hair and A Wonderful Guy will be entirely familiar to first-time audiences and the backdrop of azure blue seas and palm trees transports you to another world.

Young or old, this uplifting production shouldn’t fail to sweep you off your feet. It’s theatrical escapism at its best.

* Showing at the Barbican in Silk Street, EC2, until Saturday, October 1.