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Sunday, July 14, 2013


(Dallas Caulkins and Njabulo Mthimkhulu who alternated in the roles of Nellie Forbush and Emile)

Collaboration of two universities presents enjoyable production. (Review by Keith Millar)

(My apologies – this review should have gone out weeks ago, but Grahamstown disrupted the process! Editor)

As part of a collaboration which dates from the year 2000 Professor Barbara Hill Moore from Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas has brought a group of singers and dancers to Durban to join talented young performers from UKZN in an enjoyable production of Rogers and Hammerstein’s musical, South Pacific.

Considered to be one of the great Broadway musicals, South Pacific is set at a American Naval Base in the South Pacific Islands during World War 11. It tells the story of an American Nurse, Ensign Nellie Forbush who falls in love with an expatriate French plantation owner, Emile de Becque. She struggles to come to terms with his past and his mixed race children.

A second romance concerns a US Marine Lieutenant, Joseph Cable, who falls in love with a young Polynesian woman from the Islands.

All this is played out against a background of war, spying and heroism. The music from South Pacific is memorable and timeless and was very well performed by the cast from the two universities.

The production features a double cast and on Friday evening the role of Nellie Forbush was played by Dallas Caulkins. She gave a engaging and confidant performance and did justice to her songs which include A Cock-eyed Optimist, I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Out-a My Hair, I’m In Love With A Wonderful Guy and Honey Bun.

Friday’s Emile was Njabulo Mthimkhulu. He has a beautiful baritone voice with a strong, rich timbre. He did an excellent job in delivering Some Enchanted Evening and This Nearly Was Mine.

My favourite was Moreta Irchiri playing the worldly-wise market vendor Bloody Mary. She has a lovely singing voice and gave an excellent performance of Bali Hai and Happy Talk. The ensemble singing was also good with the sailors’ performance of There Is Nothin’ Like a Dame being particularly noteworthy.

Production and Musical Direction is by Barbara Hill Moore, while Roger Bennett Riggle is responsible for direction and choreographer. Lionel Mkhwanazi  is the Associate Producer and Chorus Master.

While the music performance in this production is first-rate, there are some limitations when it came to acting. Also the sets, costumes, lighting and sound were kept very simple which is a pity because the quality of the singing could easily have supported something a little more elaborate.

Another disappointing aspect was the decision to hide the very good four -piece backing band somewhere backstage. The lack of visual presence and a decidedly “off mic” sound resulted in a strange music mix. This was particularly apparent during the overture which featured Barbara Hill Moore conducting nothing more than a little camera on stage. – Keith Millar