South Pacific, The Mayflower, Southampton, until Saturday, February 4.

A terrific performance from Samantha Womack is the principal delight in this deeply-impressive trip to the South Pacific.

Tuesday, 24th January 2012, 4:28 pm

She gets some of the best numbers and rises to the challenge as a delightful Nellie Forbush, the dithering ensign to whom falls the good fortune of learning that her sweetheart is actually rather better than she thought.

And it’s this that gives the heart to a second half which builds powerfully to a stirring conclusion delivered with the deftest of touches in the simplest of gestures.

A bolder production, however, would perhaps have acknowledged that the opening is surely just a bit too laboured for modern tastes. We certainly go somewhere special in the end, but this particular production Rodger’s and Hammerstein’s classic musical takes a touch too long to get into gear.

Probably blasphemy to say so, but a few numbers could certainly disappear in an over-long first half; and a decent map in the programme would have helped make sense of the plot and the degree of daring it involves.

But this is a small price to pay for Womack’s brilliance, a lovely foil to the more operatic singing of Matthew Cammelle as Emile, the dodgy French planter who manages to come up trumps despite being a killer in his past life and omitting to mention his kiddies in his present life.

To Cammelle falls the musical highlights. Not surprisingly, Some Enchanted Evening remains a stand-out number; but it’s the lesser-known This Nearly Was Mine which delivers the night’s real enchantment.

Phil Hewitt