In Review

Theatre in review: South Pacific, Anna X and ‘country-comedy’ opera L’amico Fritz

Just to see ‘a large cast dancing and singing its lungs out feels like witnessing an act of rebirth’

“My, how I’ve missed the gladdening sight and pulse-quickening sound of a major American musical done to perfection,” said Dominic Cavendish in The Daily Telegraph.

Daniel Evans’s “enchanting” and “seductive” staging of South Pacific at Chichester Festival Theatre is a flat-out triumph. Leads Julian Ovenden and Gina Beck are both first-rate. The racial aspects of the plot are handled very sensitively, and without sacrificing wit and buoyancy. And just to see “a large cast dancing and singing its lungs out feels like witnessing an act of rebirth”.

I’ve never before been seduced by South Pacific, with its “sumptuous score” and “ghastly action”, said Susannah Clapp in The Observer. But this “glorious” version made me think, for the first time, that Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical “really may, as has always been claimed, not be besmirched by racism and misogyny but be tackling them”. Truly an enchanted evening (until 5 September).

Anna X, at the Harold Pinter Theatre in London’s West End, is “frenetic, fun and ultra-cool” – and dazzling in its “ambition, originality and execution”, said Arifa Akbar in The Guardian.

Joseph Charlton’s “slick and intelligent” two-hander, about a con artist who rips off a tech entrepreneur, is loosely based on the story of the “fake heiress” Anna Sorokin. Emma Corrin (“excellent” as Princess Diana in The Crown) and Nabhaan Rizwan are both “superb”: she emanating “steely cynicism”; he “loveably gullible” – but it’s the set and video designs that blow the mind. 

Anna X deploys “such sophisticated – and stupendous – video projection techniques that it feels like a reconceived theatrical form” – a mash-up of film, pop video and “happening”. Let’s hope that Charlton (a successful TV writer) continues to write for the theatre, said Paul Taylor in The Independent. He’s a major talent (until 4 August).

Pietro Mascagni’s charming “country-comedy” opera L’amico Fritz is a “musical flummery” as “toothsome” as its cherry-orchard setting – all “sharp-sweet dissonance, heavy with some really sumptuous duets and a stirring intermezzo”, said Alexandra Coghlan in The Daily Telegraph. Verdi called it “the worst libretto I’ve ever seen”, but “since when has a lack of real conflict been a barrier to success for a romantic comedy?”

The piece is a favourite at Opera Holland Park, where Julia Burbach’s new production boasts a cracking cast, and a reduced City of London Sinfonia sensitively captures the work’s tender string writing and folk-infused melodies. “It’s froth, but deliciously served” – and “delivered with a final sprinkle of pink confetti, this is opera without tears, and none the worse for it” (until 31 July).

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