Rodgers and Hammerstein’s long-established classic, South Pacific, may need no introduction but, to some, the wonderfully capable company who have brought it back to life on the amateur stage at Sutton Coldfield Town Hall, may well do.
Manor Musical Theatre Company, whose first show, A Country Girl, was back in 1953, have their 2017 production spearheaded by the delightfully capable duo of Barry Styles (Emile De Becque) and Beth Hooper (Nellie Forbush) whose vocal abilities seldom strayed from sheer perfection and arguably, may not have been overly out of place on a more professional stage. At times, none more so than in his rendition of Some Enchanted Evening, Styles’ portrayal of the wealthy French planter brought back spine-tingling echoes of Giorgio Tozzi back in the 1958 film adaptation. It would not have been as successful however, had the two roles been at varying degrees of poise and professionalism. Hooper was equally as captivating as Ensign Nellie Forbush, a part which, amid an intense score, boasts perhaps the greatest challenge when one simultaneously factors in the diversity of song styles and the required choreographed accompaniments.
There was more joy to be found in the band, ably led by Director of Music Peter Bushby and the roles of the wily Luther Billis (Paul Wozniak) and courageous Lieutenant Joe Cable (Andy Hooper) who shone just as bright as the leads in their respective moments. Moreover, the three children who played Jerome, Henri and Ngana De Becque not only exhibited a masterful control of the French language, but also exceptionally polished vocal and dance performances which, when considering their ages, is all the more impressive.
As ever with live theatre, it was not without some small hiccups. Early on in the performance, at the arrival on stage of the male ensemble and Bloody Mary (Susan Bushby), the orchestra, correctly I might add, piped up but due to hesitation on stage only a handful began singing. To their credit, they recovered comparatively quickly to give really quite excellent renditions of Bloody Mary and There’s Nothing Like a Dame.
Under the directorial prowess of Pam and James Garrington, Manor utilise every inch of staging, showing unprecedented innovation to maximise both the height and width of the stage which gives at once the sense of being at a far grander show, something further fuelled by the ever-capable cast.
This is most definitely a show that does justice to, and perfectly embodies Rodgers and Hammerstein’s at once hilarious, thought-provoking and heart-wrenching classic and with the palpable camaraderie amongst the cast, it is without question well worth a watch.
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