Sheila Francisco shines as Bloody Mary in South Pacific

FUNFARE - Ricky Lo -

Filipino talent continues to shine on the international stage. One big (literally and figuratively) proof is Sheila Francisco who has been wowing them with her performance as Bloody Mary in the current tour of South Pacific in England. According to Girlie Rodis, Sheila was originally handpicked by the producer for the revival of the enduring hit musicale at the Royal National Theater in London a few years ago. Sheila was such a smash that producer Martin Dodd also handpicked her for the same role in the current tour.

“Miss Francisco is a real star,” Dodd was quoted as saying. “She lights up the production with her portrayal of Bloody Mary. She has received rave reviews from our press here and the audience clearly love her performance, as we do. It is a great privilege for us to have her in our company.”

Said Girlie, “Sheila makes us proud to be Pinoy at a time when it is sometimes difficult to be.”

I agree.

Girlie sent Funfare excerpts of the rave reviews Sheila has been collecting. Here are some of them:

• From Blackpool Gazette/The Stage
By Robin Duke

It also says something that America is still at war today just as it was in this 1943 tropical setting and that the racism central to its storyline still exists but, hey, musicals rarely let such things get in the way of a good knees-up and who would find the mercenary Bloody Mary (a winning performance by Sheila Francisco), out for a fast buck and prepared to marry her teenage daughter off to the highest bidder, half as appealing if she wasn’t a politically incorrect parody of a pigeon English speaking big Polynesian?

*   *   *

• From Hull Gazette
By Jackie Foottit

All this against a backdrop of bored US navy men — starved of female company and not really enjoying  their enforced stay in paradise — and the reality of island life, hilariously portrayed by Bloody Mary (Sheila Francisco) as she ekes out a living for her and her daughter.

*   *   *

• From Sentinel/Stoke On Trent
By Liz Rowly

As expected there were some great comedy moments throughout the production, with Chris Howell creating many laughs in his role as Luther Billis and Sheila Francisco doing the same if not more, as Bloody Mary; her mannerisms alone carry the character.

*   *   *

From Bolton News (Manchester)
By Lynn Ashwell

Some Enchanted Evening; I’m Gonna Wash that Man Right Outta My Hair; There is Nothing Like a Dame, and a spine-tingling version of Bali Ha’i from the fantastic Sheila Francisco, who made the role of Bloody Mary, the native islander out to make a quick buck, her own.

*   *   *

From Evening News (Manchester)
By Kevin Bourke

Still, the show does boast a lusty, and well-received, Bloody Mary, played by Sheila Francisco, as well as a lively and accomplished supporting cast, that’s encouragingly sizeable for a touring musical.

*  *  *

• From Evening News (Manchester)
By Julie Taylor

If I were voting for charisma and stage presence, I would choose Sheila Francisco as Bloody Mary. Her timing and projection are second to none and her angry reaction when Jo refuses to marry her daughter is totally uninhibited.

*   *   *

• From Entertainment Manchester
By Rachel Hammer

There was also a very humorous and clever performance from Sheila Francisco as Bloody Mary. She did a beautiful rendition of Bali Ha’i that sent shivers down my spine and did justice to the memorable Happy Talk where she teaches her daughter to talk through dance.

*   *   *

• From Edinburgh Evening News (Edinburgh)
By Thom Diblin

Rather more memorable is Sheila Francisco as Polynesian entrepreneur, Bloody Mary. Not so much for her larger-than-life stage presence but for her voice. Harshly crackling when needed, she produces a magical rendition of Bali Ha’i to tempt Lt. Cable over to the island where her daughter lives.

*   *   *

• From Daily Info Oxford (Oxford)
By Andre Hopkins

Dave Willetts as Emile de Becque was a dishy older guy convincingly reinvigorated by love, and has a wonderful rich chocolatey voice. Sheila Francisco as Bloody Mary was utterly fabulous — a formidable stage presence, her chunky scolding informing her splendiferous contralto and stealing every scene she was in.

*   *   *

• From Oxford Times
By Giles Woodforde

Down the cast, there are spirited cameos from Sheila Francisco as Bloody Mary (so spirited that her words are sometimes indecipherable), Ian McLarnon as the upright, Princeton-educated Lt. Joseph Cable, David Alcock as prone-to-panic Capt. Brackett and Christopher Howell as skirt-chasing, lip-smacking Luther Billis.

*   *   *

• From Oxford Mail (Oxford)
By Chris Gray

Its dark shadow is similarly cast over the love that develops between Lt. Joseph Cable (Ian McLarnon) and the native girl Liat (Kanako Nakano). This is a huge disappointment to her mother Bloody Mary, wheeler-dealer to the US forces occupying her idyllic island. As performed by Sheila Francisco, her songs Bali Ha’i and the hugely infectious Happy Talk are highlights of the show.

*   *   *

• From The Henley and Oxfordshire Standard
By Mary Scriven

Sheila Francisco’s attack, and beautifully judged portrayal of this colourful character resulted in her holding the audience in the palm of her hand — could there be a remnant of her portrayal of the character in the Royal National Theatre’s production to thank for that? Who knows — but if this South Pacific did seem at times to be a bit of a patchwork of directorial inspiration, then it was a colourful one, and kept you feeling nice and warm on an autumn evening.

*   *   *

• From Swansea Evening News
By Graham Williams

...while comedy relief is provided by Christopher Howell — whose portrayal of Luther Billis is an absolute hoot — and Sheila Francisco, whose full-blooded performance as Bloody Mary brought the house down on the opening night...

(E-mail reactions at [email protected])

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