Trowbridge Amateur Operatic Society
Music by Richard Rodgers – Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
2nd December 2011 Arc Theatre, Trowbridge
Director Phil Courage - MD Helen Heaton – Choreographer Allison Moore
Rodgers & Hammerstein certainly knew how to write a good musical and watching this production of South Pacific you can see why their shows have stood the test of time. Certainly in my 28 months as NODA representative for District 10 in the South West this is the finest production I’ve witnessed from Trowbridge AOS and I congratulate all concerned. Once again I marvelled at how such a ‘big’ musical can be performed in the limited space available in the Arc Theatre, made even more difficult in this production because of the requirement to have a larger orchestra that spilled out into the stage area. This was cleverly camouflaged however I congratulate the person responsible for its conception and delivery as at no time did the orchestra detract one’s attention from the action.
After a rather hesitant overture the opening was good and the children both adorable. However I would like to have seen the children ‘spill over’ into the scene from the area designated as the terrace as I felt the space available to them limited their moves in Dites-Moi. This was done later on in the scene with Emile and Nellie and worked well I thought. However in Twin Soliloquies again I thought the limited space meant the two singers were far too close together to give the impression they were singing about each other rather than to each other. That said this opening scene was extremely well portrayed by both Andrew Curtis as Emile de Beque and Tracy Sullivan as Nellie Forbush. Both had very pleasant singing voices and the chemistry between them was there for all to see. Some enchanted evening was particularly well performed.
I noted in the programme notes that this was Tracy’s first time back on stage in ten years. May I suggest Tracy doesn’t wait another ten years as it would be such a waste of talent to the world of amateur theatre? Here is a lady who can sing, move and act and totally hold the stage whenever she appears. The light and shade of the character was very well portrayed and I congratulate Tracy for an all-round performance that I won’t be surprised to see get a Bristol Evening Post Rose Bowl nomination next year. I have already mentioned Andrew’s most pleasant singing voice which was enjoyed by a very appreciative audience on the night I visited. However I would have liked to have seen a little more contrast in his character with perhaps a little more warmth shown on occasions, especially with the children. Furthermore I do feel the make-up department needed to age him slightly, by a greying of the temples, to make the age gap between the two more obvious. You need two good leads in South Pacific and in Andrew and Tracy you had just that. It was they who carried this wonderful production of South Pacific to the heights it reached.
As one would expect the show really came to life with the entrance of Bloody Mary, excellently played by Michelle Hole and the boys led by Jon Hawker as Luther Billis. These are both principal parts to ‘die for’ as you don’t have to learn all those lines but you get to ‘steal’ much of the limelight if you perform them well and these two certainly did. The male singing in There is nothing like a dame was very good indeed and once one had come to terms with the fact that the marines were not as young as they might have been in real life you found yourself inwardly applauding TAOS’ ability to get so many new male members on stage. One thing that did impress was the fact that there were not ‘too many’ people on stage which is something I’ve commented upon in the past. This I feel enabled the audience to ‘see’ the action more clearly when ensemble numbers were being performed. Bali Ha’i was another outstandingly sung number and brought shivers down one’s spine. The lighting changes in this song added greatly to the ambiance of this number and enhanced one’s ability to imagine Bali Ha’i in one’s mind. Also the sound of the waves in this scene was another cleverly thought out touch to help the audience get the feel of the action – good direction on both counts.
The first scene in the Commander’s Office gave us a good insight as to how the parts of Captain Brackett and Commander Harbison were to be played by Francis Holmes and Matt Heaton respectively. I was particularly impressed by the former who gave the finest portrayal of this character I have ever seen and got more comedy from the role than I’d previously witnessed. I congratulate both Phil Courage for his direction and Francis for his delivery in achieving this.
The girls chorus really came into their own in the next scene and I loved the use of real water in I’m gonna wash that man right out of my hair. We were then introduced to Luke Rees-Oliviere as Joe Cable and Alice Parker as Liat. Other than the fact that Luke was probably a little too young to be playing this character and could have done with a bit of ‘aging’ also therefore from the make-up team, his rendition of Younger than springtime was breath-taking. Alice too played her part in this relationship. It is not easy to play a non-speaking part but she did admirably in supporting Luke in this relationship.
The opening of the second half was expertly delivered with the marines’ backs to the audience whilst never hiding any of the action. The Honey Bun number was another undoubted highlight of the show and combined good choral singing with great deal of humour. The Billis ‘belly dance’ was perfectly delivered and the choreography throughout excellent. I did note that one of the dancers was wearing long leggings at the start of Act Two which I didn’t feel was appropriate however. This was a well-constructed scene.
The drama of the piece built nicely from here when the storyline really ‘kicks in’. The attention of the audience was always maintained and the numbers, You’ve got to be carefully taught, This nearly was mine, Some enchanted Evening Reprise and Finale all tastefully delivered in keeping with the mood. One small criticism was that I felt Emile entered ‘too soon’ in the finale thus watering down the part of the song he sings upon his return. The fact that he had been on stage a while before he sang meant the usual ‘lump in the throat’ moment was missed.
As one has come to expect from Phil Courage productions the attention to detail was good throughout and the ‘drama’ of the piece was always at the fore. The orchestra, under the guidance of Helen Heaton, was superb as was the chorus singing (I’ve put the show forward for a Chorus Singing Award within NODA) and the choreography was the best I’ve witnessed in time with NODA from a TAOS production. My congratulations to all concerned.
NODA Representative District 10