South Pacific brings Fareham Musical Society full circle at Ferneham Hall

Marie Ridley with Betty Richards of Fareham Musical Society, who have both played the role of Bloody Mary in South Pacific, 33 years apart.
Marie Ridley with Betty Richards of Fareham Musical Society, who have both played the role of Bloody Mary in South Pacific, 33 years apart.
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‘Bali Hai will call you – and it’s calling for one last hurrah!’

Well, they might not be the exact lyrics that Rodgers & Hammerstein originally penned when they wrote South Pacific, but they’d certainly be fitting lyrics for Fareham Musical Society, who stage their final musical at Ferneham Hall this month before the venue’s two year closure for refurbishment.

What makes this production even more poignant is the fact that the company have come full circle – South Pacific was the very first musical they ever performed at the Fareham venue back in 1986. 

Company founder, Betty Richards, recalls: ‘I was so proud to see my beloved FMS finally get to perform at Ferneham Hall, as it had been my dream to see us get in there and perform on that stage. It was a wonderful time as South Pacific is my all time favourite show and I also got to play Bloody Mary – which was a part I’d always wanted to play.’

Betty is a very close friend of Marie Ridley, who is bringing the character of Bloody Mary to life in this production. ‘Marie is such a talent, she will make this part her own as she always does’.

Joining Marie in this romantic classic musical are Jonathan Redwood as Emile De Becque and Clare Plumridge as Nellie Forbush – the mismatched couple who fight against a climate of racial and political discrimination in order to maintain their love for one another.

Although some minor changes have been made along the way, it appears fans of the film have no cause for concern...

‘Apart from the lack of Pacific locations, a smaller cast and some scenes being in a different order, the show is very close to the film – although we won’t be shifting into intense Technicolour every time we sing!’ says Jonathan, who’s just celebrated 25 years’ service with the company. 

Marie has also been a regular with FMS for 16 years. Her first show with the company was Billy in 2003 where she went from being a complete novice to a full leading lady in her first show.

She says: ‘Since then I’ve been very lucky to win awards with FMS which I’m immensely proud of and still can’t quite believe.’ 

This show is doubly special for Marie as she not only follows in Betty’s footsteps, but she also gets to share the stage with her son Sean in the place where it all began.

‘Sean plays Billis in this production and I remember taking him to see FMS perform Me & My Girl when he was very small and he loved it – singing and clapping along. It’s so lovely we get to share this one together.’

For Clare Plumridge, fresh from her Best Actress award win at this year’s Guide Awards for her turn as Rizzo in Grease, this is set to be an emotional show as she will be taking a break from FMS to focus on training for her MA in acting at Guildford School of Acting from the end of this month.

‘I don’t think it will hit me until the end of the run to be be honest. I’ve performed at Ferneham Hall so many times over the years and always get such a huge sense of nostalgia when walking through the stage door’, she recalls.

‘I’ve been with FMS since 2015 when I joined for Oliver! and played my dream role of Nancy. I’ve been so lucky to have played such amazing roles during my time here, and I’m honoured to go out in my last show for a while as Nellie. South Pacific holds such a special place in my heart, as it was such a favourite of my grandparents.

‘It’s such a joy to develop Nellie’s character and sing her songs week after week.’

Favourite songs from the show include Bali Hai, Some Enchanted Evening, Honeybun and I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair.

Although this will be the company’s final musical outing at Ferneham Hall for the foreseeable future, they are yet to perform their final show this October, an Agatha Christie murder mystery classic, Towards Zero. Further musicals, including their March 2020 offering Hairspray will be taken to The Berry Theatre in Hedge End, while their plays will remain in Fareham at the Ashcroft Arts Centre.

South Pacific

Ferneham Hall, Fareham

September 25-28

fernehamhall.co.uk