The RTÉ Concert Orchestra is proud to announce that Olivier Award-winning Jenna Russell and superstar Maria Ewing are among the top international cast joining the orchestra and conductor John Wilson for concert performances of South Pacific on Thursday 10 and Friday 11 October at the National Concert Hall.
Jenna Russell, playing the lead role of Nellie Forbush, has won acclaim for her performances in the West End, on Broadway, with the Royal Shakespeare Company and on TV. Her performance as Dot in Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George earned her the 2007 Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Musical and a Tony nomination. Russell is well known to TV viewers from On the Up and Born and Bred, and has appeared in numerous other series including Doctor Who and Minder. She also sang the theme song to Red Dwarf.
As Nellie she gets two of the show’s classic numbers, I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair and I’m in Love with a Wonderful Guy, as well as A Cockeyed Optimist and Honey Bun.
Maria Ewing, playing Bloody Mary, is not only a legendary vocalist but like Jenna Hall has won a reputation as a striking actress. This is a skill she has clearly passed on to her daughter, Hollywood star Rebecca Hall. While the idea of singers famous for operatic roles moving into the area of show tunes can cause a shudder (with good reason based on some past instances), Maria Ewing is truly at home in both; her credentials are as good in the realm of Broadway as in the opera house. She has even performed at the famous Ronnie Scott’s jazz club in London.
Ewing features on the John Wilson Orchestra’s Rodgers & Hammerstein album, which last year shot into the top 20 of the British pop charts. As www.classicalsource.com commented: ‘Maria Ewing is an inspired choice to sing Bali Ha’i: it is a perfect fit for the current state of her sepia-toned voice.’ As Bloody Mary, she also takes centre stage for the classic Happy Talk. Maria Ewing herself describes John Wilson as a ‘one-off’.
Another exciting name in the cast is Hadley Fraser, in the role of Lieutenant Cable. He made his critically acclaimed West End debut as Marius in Les Misérables, originated the role of Tiernan in The Pirate Queen on Broadway, and has just got rave reviews for his performance as Garry Kasparov in a new play The Machine: ‘the remarkably supple and versatile acting from Hadley Fraser as the mercurial Kasparov’ (Independent, London). He gets one of the musical’s most beautiful melodies, Younger than Springtime, as well as You’ve Got to be Carefully Taught.
While still training at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, Nigel Richards worked with Leonard Bernstein on the British stage première of Bernstein’s Mass at the Barbican. Since then he has become widely recognised for his work in musical theatre, including Sondheim, Weill and Tom Waits. As Luther Billis, Richards gets one of the most popular, most parodied songs of all musical theatre: There is Nothing Like a Dame.
The concert performances will be directed by the experienced Shaun Kerrison, whose credits include My Fair Lady at the BBC Proms and on a national US tour, South Pacific at Ogunquit Playhouse, USA, Mary Poppins on Broadway and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Celebrations in Hyde Park.
Music by Richard Rodgers
Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
Two concert performances on Thursday 10 October & Friday 11 October, 8pm
National Concert Hall
RTÉ Concert Orchestra
John Wilson conductor
Jenna Russell as Nellie Forbush
Maria Ewing as Bloody Mary
Hadley Fraser as Lieutenant Cable
Nigel Richards as Luther Billis
Directed by Shaun Kerrison
Book by OSCAR HAMMERSTEIN II and JOSHUA LOGAN
Adapted from the Pulitzer Prizewinning novel Tales of the South Pacific by James A. Michener
Concert Adaptation by David Ives
Presented by the RTÉ Concert Orchestra, by arrangement with R&H Theatricals Europe