South Pacific, Sadler's Wells | Review

Saturday, 6 August 2022

South Pacific
Sadlers Wells
Reviewed on Friday 5th August 2022

First performed at Chichester Festival Theatre in 2021, Rodgers and Hammerstein's soaring South Pacific is back for a 2022 summer season at Sadler's Wells Theatre.

It has been over seventy years since the release of the original production which covers a number of issues such as class, race and gender, and this revival is visually and vocally beautiful but doesn't quite hit the right note for a contemporary audience.

Rodgers and Hammerstein's score is a delight to hear, with so many of musical theatre's most popular tunes popping up, including I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair and the stunning Some Enchanted Evening. The full orchestra alongside the outstanding cast, namely: Julian Ovenden as Emile De Becque, Gina Beck as Ensign Nellie Forbush, and Rob Houchen as Lt. Joseph Cable, do a stellar job of bringing the score to life and showcasing the sounds of the Golden Age of musical theatre.

It's the plot which features some troubling moments that don't quite sit right for a 21st century audience. Whilst this production does handle aspects well, for example by making a real moment of You've Got To Be Carefully Taught (which was a progressive song for its time) the overarching elements of racism are extremely strong, as is the Westernised view placed on everything. Of course, this is a piece of its time and should be viewed as such and there are aspects which are very much still relevant for today's audiences but the strong negative undertones did detract from what is otherwise a thrillingly giddy romance.

However, aside from plot, this is a visually as well as vocally stunning show. Peter McKintosh's set perfectly transports us to the various spaces of the island and the mystical Bali Ha'i. The cavernous space of Sadler's Wells Theatre is used to the shows advantage and has some real wow moments, especially during act two.

Whilst there are flaws with South Pacific there's no denying that it's a lush show with a number of glorious aspects. For fans of classic musical theatre this should definitely be on the list, as well as those who want to indulge in the fantastically sweeping voices of the top notch cast. 

Tickets for South Pacific can be purchased via