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Posts Tagged ‘Cat Beveridge’

Chichester has become the go to place for revivals of classic musicals. In recent years we’ve had very successful productions of Me & My Girl, Oklahoma, Guys & Dolls, Mack & Mabel, Half a Sixpence & She Loves Me. This one was part of the aborted 2020 festival, so the anticipation was heightened, but it has been richly rewarded. As much of a reinvention as a revival, my fourth exposure to it made me look at it anew.

Set in the Pacific islands in the middle of the Second World War, the Americans are confronting the Japanese at the same time as the allies are confronting the Nazis in Europe. Some of these islands are colonies, with plantations growing food for hungry Europe, and the island on which this American base is situated is French. With this serious backdrop, two love stories unfold, a US lieutenant with a local girl and a US Navy nurse with a French plantation owner, both relationships blighted by the racist programming of the American lovers.

Both the male suitors get caught up in a dramatic military expedition, which results in a change in the fortunes of war, though they don’t both live to see the outcome. Meanwhile, military life goes on and the forces endeavour to entertain themselves in this paradise in the Pacific, encountering the local people they are temporarily sharing the islands with. The colonial, race and gender issues are hard to swallow 70 years on, but Daniel Evans solution is to confront them, rather than paper over them as other productions have, hence the reinvention. He’s also tackled the neglect of the local characters. Thus the serious themes can co-exist with traditional musical exuberance in numbers like There is Nothin’ Like a Dame and I’m Gonna Wash that Man Right Outa my Hair. There’s an authenticity too in the look of the show in Peter McKintosh’s design.

Few shows are packed with as many songs which have become standards outside of them, here Some Enchanted Evening, Younger than Springtime, I’m in Love With A Wonderful Guy and Happy Talk amongst others, and they are given superb renditions by a combined cast and band of almost 50. Julian Ovenden has clearly been put on this planet to play Emile – great presence, great chemistry with Nellie and his children, and as fine a voice as you’d wish to hear singing these iconic songs. Gina Beck is coming to the end of her stint as Nellie, sharing the role with Alex Young, and she combines the ‘cockeyed optimist’ with infatuated lover brilliantly, and when her prejudice comes through it is truly shocking. Rob Houchen is a fine romantic lead as Lt. Cable and there are excellent performances from Joanna Ampil as a feisty Bloody Mary and Keir Charles as base comedian Billis. Cat Beveridge’s band sounds luxurious by today’s musical theatre standards and does Rogers’ score full justice.

It comes up fresh, its themes relevant and it’s music joyful. CFT does it yet again.

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