New York revival places refreshing emphasis on character in Rodgers and Hammerstein classic
Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Pulitzer-winning musical set in and around a US naval base during World War II includes so many songs that have become standards that the plot seems almost surplus to requirements. You can almost feel the smiles of recognition all around you as the orchestra strikes up the opening bars of ‘Some Enchanted Evening’ and ‘Happy Talk’. Yet, Bartlett Sher’s production, based on a Tony-scooping New York revival, places a refreshing emphasis on character that heightens the sense of drama in these numbers.
Aspects of the story remain problematic. The native islander characters provide little more than background to the predicaments of the Americans, for instance. But Sher at least tackles the racial tensions in the story head-on while an ironic minor-key version of ‘Honey Bun’ at the end reminds us of the ongoing jeopardy of the war. Samantha Womack and Alex Ferns are sufficiently spirited as Ensign Nellie Forbush and Luther Billis to make you forget their Eastenders pasts, Jason Howard and Daniel Koek provide strong vocal support as Frenchman-gone-native Emile de Becque and Lieutenant Cable while Loretta Ables Sayre gives a standout performance as wily peddler Bloody Mary.
Theatre Royal, Glasgow, until Sat 19 Nov