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Review of South Pacific by the Northampton Musical Theatre Company at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

I didn't really get musicals until this year. I had watched a few film versions and did enjoy them, but before Blood Brothers on 26th March this year, I had never seen one live. Since then I have seen five more, one of which was Blitz! (review here) by the Northampton Musical Theatre Company, a group formed of amateur performers very much on a level with a professional production. Blitz! was, rather obviously due to my lack of musical knowledge, completely new to me. However these people acting, singing, dancing and in the talented orchestra pit, playing, introduced me to a lovely musical, with catchy tunes.

So I was back for more at Royal & Derngate this weekend for their production of Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific. It goes without saying that I have never seen it (not even the film), so once again all was mostly new to me. This time however, unlike Blitz!, some of the tunes were known (in the case of one, thanks to Captain Sensible).

The glorious scene was set by the magnificent 21 piece orchestra led by Graham Tear as they presented the overture of the songs to come. Then curtain was up and "The Hammerstein Team" of the young and talented Abhisri Chadalavada and Oliver Knaggs performed "Dites-Moi" and the afternoon was clearly going to be full of entertainment.

Rachel James as Ensign Nellie Forbush made a wonderful hick, sweet and delightful while her would be love interest Emile played by Matthew Berrill was stunning, torn between his love and his contribution to help with the war effort. While everyone of the main cast were nothing short of excellent, the power of Berrill's voice was simply incredible and without doubt the very best of the show. Susie Pack (so good in Blitz!) was once again excellent in her role of Bloody Mary, excellently performing the beguiling "Bali Ha'i" and her "Happy Talk" in particular was absolutely superb. Bringing the absolute amusement level to the high though was Dan Hodson's performance of Luther Billis. Totally willing to put his all into the role, he wore the coconuts and grass skirt well. All the songs were performed to perfection with the stand out tunes being Berrill's "Some Enchanted Evening" and the incredible group performance of "There Is Nothing Like A Dame".

The accents were also spot on (maybe with just the possible humorous exception, although it mattered not), as was the clarity of speech from the cast. I have attended other professional productions this year where the speech lacks clarity and the accent a little heavy, so to be able to hear every word was magnificent.

It was also a delight to see the Derngate 99% full in the stalls for the matinee that I attended. Such support for this group was lovely to see and I hope they all went home and told their friends how brilliant it was. Also myself and several others gathered at the end and looked over into the pit and stayed for the leaving performance of the orchestra. They don't always get the credit they deserve, but they got another round of applause from me and the select few who stayed to the true end.

Director Martyn Knight created a production of professional standard with his cast of exceptionally talented "amateurs". It nothing short of amazes me that a production like this could be created with peoples own time and dedication and without doubt I wait with baited breath for the next opportunity to see them perform.

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Performance viewed: Saturday 1st November, 2014 at the Royal & Derngate (Derngate).

The Northampton Musical Theatre Company performed South Pacific between Tuesday 28th October and Saturday 1st November, 2014. Their website can be found at http://www.nmtc.me.uk/, while they are also on Twitter @theNMTC

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