South Pacific comes to Portsea

Heaven on Earth writer Sara Jeffs with Russell Watson

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The greatest story ever told

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Think Pearl Harbour meets Grease as two lovers get tangled up in prejudices and misunderstandings against the backdrop of World War Two.

South Pacific was first shown in 1949, and follows the story of Nellie, a young US Navy nurse who falls in love with Emile, a middle aged French plantation owner.

The plot follows their twisted love lives on a South Pacific island, and in the past the show has won ten Tony awards, with the 2008 Broadway revival winning seven Tony awards, including Best Musical Revival.

In the Groundlings Theatre production, Nellie will be played by Elissa Churchill, 18 and Mike Bayliss, 44, will play Emile.

Richard Stride, director of the production and artist director of Groundlings theatre, says: ‘It is basically a revival of the fantastic Rodgers and Hammerstein classic musical.

‘It’s about these Americans that have come to fight the war against the Japanese and it approaches peoples preconceived perceptions, particularly about racism and prejudice and brings it to life.’

However, the story takes an ugly turn when Nellie decides not to be involved with Emile.

Richard explains: ‘She loves him and doesn’t care when she finds out he has killed a man, and finds it perfectly acceptable. The thing that angers her is that he once married a Polynesian girl, and he has two children.’

‘When it was first produced in the Fifties it was quite revolutionary and it was in some ways anti American.’

Famous songs from the musical include Some Enchanted Evening, Happy Talk, and the well-known classic, I’m Going To Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair.

He concludes: ‘There are so many wonderful songs. It’s been a favourite of mine for years and years and it’s the fact that we are able to utilise the theatre in a specific way because it’s our own theatre. As a result we can fix all of the set exactly how we want. We came up with a much more interesting idea, because we could take our time.

‘It’s very rare to find a musical that’s full of well known songs because most only have a few songs that people know.

‘We are rehearsing for the performances and they are going good, and we have a fairly big cast. It gives it a really lovely feel.’

Tickets: £7.50 Groundlings Theatre, Portsea (023) 9273 7370 or groundlings.co.uk.

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