REVIEW: Bolsover Drama Group shines in South Pacific

Islanders in South Pacific, performed by Bolsover Drama Group
Islanders in South Pacific, performed by Bolsover Drama Group

Thirty musical productions, five of them Rodgers and Hammerstein creations, add up to quite an achievement in a tough climate when audience numbers are dwindling as people count their pennies.

It’s testament to the team work and fighting spirit of outfits like Bolsover Drama Group that there are still big-name shows for people to see on their doorstep.

And how encouraging for the cast that a larger than normal audience supported the launch of South Pacific last night (Wednesday).

A plug for the production from musical theatre superstar Elaine Page on Radio 2 last weekend must surely have helped to swell the ranks of spectators at Bolsover School, where the production runs until Saturday, October 5.

Lively, colourful and a great deal of fun, the production bobs along nicely, with Julie Clifford as military nurse Nellie Forbush at the helm. Julie is the driving force of the show, injecting huge personality into her role and a sweet singing voice into the classic number I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair. She sweeps the audience along on a tidal wave of enthusiasm and tugs the heart-strings with her powerful characterisation of the vulnerable Nellie pondering the fate of her love interest.

Group chairman Mick Whitehouse makes his return to the spotlight, playing the leading French planter Emile de Becque. He gives a confident performance in the role of mature, widowed, dad-of-two who is desperate to escape from a past ruined by death and prejudice. Mick’s finest vocal performance comes in the signature song This Nearly Was Mine, the pitch suiting his voice better than some earlier numbers where the high notes take him out of his comfort zone.

Dale Shaw maintains his composure as the serious Lt Joseph Cable, the naval officer whose sense of duty and ingrained prejudice overpowers his love for a beautiful island girl, played by Dale’s fiancee Michelle Simpson in the role of Liat.

Light relief is brought to the production by Chrissy Smith who plays profiteering Bloody Mary, milking cash from the sailors with her wares of grass skirts, boars’ teeth bracelet and shrunken human heads. Chrissy shines in one of the show’s vocal highlights, Happy Talk, with Michelle Simpson adding charm to the number by mirroring her movements.

Paul Holland as the entrepreneurial sailor Luthur Billis is also game for a laugh. Dressed in a blonde wig and grass skirt, with a big tattoo on his belly, he brings the house down with his drag act in the song Honey Bee.

Four children - Milly Ballington, Nathan Sawyer, Holly Parker and Lochlan Tebb - get the chance to polish up their French and shine in the opening song Dites Moi when they play the roles of Emile’s two children at alternate performances.

Dressers work hard, not only equipping the stage with colonial style furniture and floral decorations for Emile’s pad but also on a multitude of costumes including grass skirts and garlands, military uniforms and nurses outfits.

Sensitive accompaniment from keyboard player Nigel Turner, the show’s musical director, and percussionist Pat Sabin enable even the quietest, less confident singer to be heard.

South Pacific is directed by the production’s choreographer Leanne Collins and her dad, Mick Whitehouse.

GAY BOLTON