REVIEW – South Pacific, Sunderland Empire

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ON a chilly night in Sunderland, you could almost feel the heat emanating from the Empire stage.

For the next two weeks, visitors to the theatre will be transported to the tropics in a sizzling show.

This Lincoln Center Theater production is a reinvention of the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical – and boy does it pack a punch.

The sets are glorious, the acting flawless and the songs are infectious.

At the helm as suave plantation owner Emile De Becque is Matthew Cammelle. He’s a dab hand on the boards with many West End leads under his belt – and it shows. His is a commanding performance, loaded with emotion and slick acting.

Despite the publicity images, former Eastenders actress Sam Womack does not appear as leading female role, Nellie Forbush. That honour goes to Rebecca Thornhill who was perfectly polished as the US Navy nurse torn between her feelings and society’s views on inter-racial relationships.

Though the themes of race and war may be complex in this show, it still manages to boast a joyous score.

You’d be hard pushed not to enjoy musical gems such as There is Nothin’ Like a Dame, Happy Talk and I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair.

These group scenes are what make this musical one of the stage’s most celebrated and this cast pull them off with aplomb.

Kudos must go to former Eastenders actor Alex Ferns who was simply excellent as womanising sailor and ebullient loveable rogue, Luther Billis.

Jodi Kimura also gave a rib-tickling performance as island wheeler dealer Bloody Mary.

For a toe-tapping taste of the tropics, there is nothin’ like South Pacific.

Katy Wheeler