South Pacific at Groundlings Theatre, Portsea

Carousel by South Downe Musical Society. Nick Williams and Becky North.

REVIEW: Carousel at Ferneham Hall, Fareham

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Adults support a mainly youthful cast in the Groundlings Theatre Company’s typically ambitious Rodgers and Hammerstein production – but two teenage girls steal the show.

Elissa Churchill and Emma Uden combine singing skills with a rare ability to think themselves into character.

Elissa, 18, not only brings flair to the famous hair-washing song, and others, but acts the words as if they are freshly-thought. She also catches the vital Arkansas drawl admirably, and plays tipsy with nice under-statement.

Her final unaccompanied Some Enchanted Evening is particularly touching, but she could just let go a little more with her ‘cock-eyed optimist’ song.

Emma, 15, is an unlikely bike-riding, ciggy-smoking Bloody Mary, the south-sea islander who pimps her own daughter. But this always watchable performer combines subtlety of facial expressions with bigness both in her moves and in her extraodinary, deep-voiced singing.

Among the males, Jay Beaumont stands out, effective in both comedy and pathos as Luther.

The production, played on a single set, is sung to a recorded soundtrack – inevitably, given the venue’s limited space.

More disappointing on the first night was a serious lack of sharpness on cues by many performers, including Mike Bayliss in the lead role of Emile de Becque.

Further performances from tomorrow until next Sunday.