1976 South Pacific

Chronicle Review

Terrific Pacific

DAMES, "Some Enchanted Evening, you will meet a stranger, across a crowded room" and if he turns out to be anything like Jon Cave, you'll really "fall in love with a wonderful guy". Jon was lending his strong, rich velvet, baritone voice and his handsome bearing to the role of Emile de Becque, the runaway Frenchman and island planter in Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II's well known, but still popular, South Pacific, and his easy performance had all the audience marvelling — if my eavesdropping was correct.

It is a long time since I have seen such a professionally produced show by a non professional group ~ the Witham Musical and Amateur Operatic Society performed with such zest and gusto. South Pacific is on all this week at the Public Hall, Witham, and twice on Saturday.

Although the American accents sometimes lapsed "Corny as Kansas in August," the cast managed completely to put over that chewing gum Americanism so essential to the humour and interest of this Pulitzer Prize winning yarn made operetta - from the individual styles they wore their headgear, gave their exaggerated salutes, pleasantly yelled their wisecracks, and confidently revealed the wealth of a fat paunch or two - and they were only the nurses - much more so the Marines.

Geoff Coverdale as the kindly all American Captain Brackett must be proud of his all-American boys. Chief amongst them was Andy Beaven as the ‘fiddler of the fast buck’ comedian, always in trouble, but a laugh a minute dressed up in his coconut shell bras at the Thanksgiving Follies. Sheila Ferris, as Bloody Mary, was consistently in character. Janet Collins, as Ensign Nellie Forbush, worked extremely hard. Where did she get the breath to both cavort energetically and amusingly AND sing almost immediately afterwards on the right notes?

But I mustn't name just a few of this cast, as every single performer contributed competence in timing, movement, singing and acting.

It was thoroughly good entertainment. Thank you Doris Griffiths, Ken Ferris and company. I am looking forward to your Gilbert and Sullivan in the autumn.


BWT Review

THIS is the season s big one. The ever-popular musical, South Pacific, with its host of characters, 25 scenes and complicated war-time effects can only be successfully attempted by a society bubbling with vivacity and resource. It requires a good producer, too. Well, Witham Operatic is that sort of society and Doris Griffiths is a very good producer. Of course they had their first night troubles. The hastily assembled orchestra was rather a handful for musical director Ken Ferris but he will overcome.

Some of the principals needed a good deal more voice to really grip the ear of the audience and the lighting was not always spot on. But Jon Cave was a tower of strength as the romantic Frenchman, Emile dc Becque, although he remained steadfastly English throughout. His commanding singing voice was a great asset. Janet Collins trapped the volatile Ensign Nellie Forbush with much charm and skill and turned on a nice touch of pathos too.

Sheila Ferris, at one bound, established herself as a character actress of merit by a remarkable study of that cackling old hag, Bloody Mary and, as her daughter, Liat, little Clare Cosslett contributed a fascinating cameo that will be remembered.

Other highlights for me were the two children. Lucy Sheppard and James Dickson, the sincere work of Malcolm Lowe as Lieut. Cable and the refreshing attack of Geoff Coverdale as Capt. Brackett. Acting honours, too, for Andy Beaven as the genial twister Luther Billis and, among a bewildering list of smaller parts, the work of Tim Sheppard (Henri and Buzz Adams), Roger Munt (Marine Corporal) and Tom Steed (Commander Harbison) twinkled brightly.

The gentlemen thoroughly enjoyed being the brutal and licentious soldiery far away from home; the girls, whether nurses, guests or natives were as stunning as ever and Cynthia Stead’s sparkling choreography put the cherry on the cake.

A word of praise for the remarkably authentic effects by Marcel Glover and the 'house full' board, in position on Monday evening, looks like staying there all week.