The forward thinking musical South Pacific, brimming with breezy and topical melodies, is warming up audiences at Birmingham’s Alexandra Theatre.

Rogers and Hammerstein’s smash-hit Broadway show, based on the the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Tales of the South Pacific by James A Michener, is back in the Midlands.

The topical story – about two cultures clashing – is set on a tropical island where the spectre of racism haunts the budding romance between lovers as the thunder and violence of World War II threatens the peace and solitude of the island dwellers.

Joanna Ampil (Bloody Mary) dreams of a day where prejudice and racism are no moreJohan Persson
Joanna Ampil (Bloody Mary) dreams of a day where prejudice and racism are no more

Nellie Forbush, an American nurse from Arkansas who was brought up during the era of segregation, falls for the charms of wealthy French planter Emile De Becque, but is unable to come to terms with his previous marriage to a Polynesian woman. Furthermore, she finds it hard to accept Emile’s two mixed-race children.

Lieutenant Cable shares Nellie’s prejudice and racist outlooks, and although he is in love with a Tonkinese woman named Liat, he has trouble looking past the colour of her skin.

This racial tone colours the very opening of the show with the overture highlighting the delicate and haunting dance by Liat which is suddenly, and rudely, torn asunder by the arrival of a pack of rowdy and raucous US Navy servicemen.

Sera Maehara is captivating and graceful as LiatJohan Persson
Sera Maehara is captivating and graceful as Liat

These reckless and unthinking sailors represent the occupying forces of a foreign power which has the military power to silence all opposition from the indigenous people.

Bloody Mary, mother to Liat, does her best to coexist with the invading army and navigate a way through the constant racist innuendo and cruel banter. She prays for a day when her daughter Liat will be accepted as person and not be judged by the colour of her skin. She hopes that Lieutenant Cable will put aside his ingrained racism and marry Liat without harbouring any prejudice against her racial background.

The musical explores the harmful impact ingrained racism and prejudice has upon a person, and how intolerance can tarnish the spirit of love.

Gina Beck (Nellie) realises that for love to prosper she has to let go of racist viewsJohan Persson
Gina Beck (Nellie) realises that for love to prosper she has to let go of racist views

Director Daniel Evans tightens the reins of the sprawling show and focuses the attention to the emotional and intimate details of the drama. This production of South Pacific looks modern and topical, and there are no signs of age or cobwebbed nostalgia.

Evans puts the spotlight on the characters, and every person comes alive as a unique and distinctive voice. The quality of the cast is high calibre and the singing is superlative and consistent.

Julian Ovenden (Emile) and Gina Beck (Nellie) share a really warm chemistry that sizzles with genuine sensuality. They look like a couple who both have a lyrical understanding of each other, and their movements and glances convey trust and intimacy.

Julian Ovenden (Emile) and Gina Beck (Nellie) share an intimate chemistryJohan Persson
Julian Ovenden (Emile) and Gina Beck (Nellie) share an intimate chemistry

Joanna Ampil as Bloody Mary is a feral powerhouse whose vocal dexterity is like a tropical storm. Ampil balances the high vocal notes with moments of heartbreaking low notes that seem to beat to the tune of her tortured heart.

Ann Yee’s stunning choreography comes to the fore with the graceful dance by Sera Maehara (Liat) which is an absolute showstopper full of mesmerising magic.

It becomes impossible to take your eyes off Maehara as she gently dances to a breathtaking crescendo. Every movement of her body becomes a lyrical poem.

The show was first performed in 1949 yet its racial themes continue to speak to a modern audienceJohan Persson
The show was first performed in 1949 yet its racial themes continue to speak to a modern audience

This powerful musical, which premiered in 1949, courageously holds up a mirror to the world and reveals the true face of society and warns that unless we change attitudes and prejudices surrounding race there can be no evolution to a higher existence where human beings are treated as equals.

The material in the show exposes the horrors of indoctrination and how these prejudices can ruin the pathways that lead towards light and harmony.

South Pacific is currently playing at The Alexandra Theatre in BirminghamRangzeb Hussain
South Pacific is currently playing at The Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham

This production of South Pacific is colourful, dramatic and textured with an emotional and social resonance that reflects our times.

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South Pacific is currently playing at The Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham until Saturday 1 October

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