Wednesday, 24 August 2011
Having so much fun with R&H
Not last night, it has to be said, with a lacklustre revival of Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific at the Barbican less than fresh from what was by all accounts a much better show at New York's Lincoln Center Theatre. Samantha Womack's Nellie Forbush, pictured above by Simon Annand as dyke's delight with Alex Ferns's dragged-up Luther Billis in 'Honey Bun', seemed OKish, and you had to make allowances for a broken toe. But then Matt Wolf, who kindly sent me off to cover the revival for The Arts Desk, pointed me in the direction of her Broadway predecessor Kelli O'Hara, and there's just no comparison. This is the real thing, and it's quite a feat to do your own stuff after Mary Martin and Mitzi Gaynor.
It didn't help yesterday evening that I'd spent some time revisiting the original Broadway cast recording and the Hollywood soundtrack. There's mezzo Mary with her sassy tones, and Mitzi with her hairwashing pizzazz; there, too, are Ezio Pinza and Giorgio Tozzi (Rossano Brazzi's voice dubber) seducing - not entirely appropriately with their Italianate diction since Emile is of course a Frenchman - in a way that even the excellent baritone Paulo Szot cannot. And much as I admired his show delivery of 'This nearly was mine', one of the classic tracks of all time now happens to be the way Bryn Terfel weaves a special, smoky magic on his 'Something Wonderful' disc.
Rumour has it that the R&H estate hated the Trevor Nunn production a decade ago, but I got so much more out of it than I did with last night's routine. And it didn't help to have a classic replica of the Broadway audience, chattering through the overture, whoo-whooing even the mediocre and of course rising to their feet for no good enough reason at the end. I won't say I'm going straight back to the film - its war sequences are horribly over-extended; but I can dip into bits of it. And then there's the much earlier (1949) Martin/Pinza team in magic moments like the (revolutionary at the time) 'Twin Soliloquies'.