South Pacific, Norwich

JOHN LAWSON The Norfolk and Norwich Operatic Society sold out their entire seven-performance run before opening night. The National Theatre would be hard-pressed to do a better job than this...

JOHN LAWSON

If you have tickets for this production my best advice would be to seal them in a top-security vault right now. Because once the word gets around about this simply sensational show there will be vigilantes trying to steal them from you.

They can't buy them, you see, as for the second time in its history, the Norfolk and Norwich Operatic Society has sold out the entire seven-performance run before opening night.

And how this marvellous company deserves its full houses.

From the very opening tableau as the over-ture begins you are immersed in the sounds, colour and atmosphere of an idyllic Pacific island in the grip of the second world war. The singing, the dancing, the costumes, the sets – there just isn't a weak link in any of it.

The choreography is just stunning as director Ray Jeffery makes the absolute most of a 70-strong company. You don't get huge companies in professional shows: they are a luxury that cannot be afforded.

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But Jeffery uses his huge cast to superb effect – they are never still and there are lovely little vignettes taking place all over the stage behind the main action. And leading that action as dynamic a collection of principals as you could find – headed by the marvellous Sarah Pryde and Greg Fitch as Nellie Forbush and Emile de Becque. Character development is key and we really care about the development of their love.

Providing the comedy interest are Nick Bird and Tina Vanston as the Bilko-like Luther Billis and his Islander counterpart Bloody Mary, while the sub-plot love story concerns Rachel Bond and Huw Jones as Lt Cable and Liat.

The National Theatre is currently reviving South Pacific in London – but I cannot believe they are doing a better job than this.

Quite simply, I don't think you will see a better show at the Theatre Royal this year. And in his centenary year, master composer Richard Rodgers would have been very proud.

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