South Pacific

South Pacific

south pacific TO 2

Music by Richard Rodgers
Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
Book by Oscar Hammerstein II and Joshua Logan
Directed by Bartlett Sher
Musical direction by Ted Sperling
Performed by Carmen Cusack, David Pettsinger et al.
DanCap Productions in Toronto; Lincoln Center Theatre Productions
Toronto Centre for the Arts
February 15 to April 10, 2011
Reviewed by Mary Alderson

An Enchanted Evening

South Pacific is a Rodgers and Hammerstein classic – it has so much to offer – an exotic location, a war story, love stories and triumph over prejudice. Put that together with a myriad of music and you have three hours amazing entertainment. The current production in Toronto – a Broadway tour brought to the city for two months by Dancap – is an excellent example of this old musical.

The story is set on a Polynesian island in the South Pacific, during World War II in the heat of the battle between Japan and the U.S. The American Navy is based on the island shared with plantation owners, in particular one Frenchman, Emile de Becque.

The main character, an American from Little Rock, Arkansas named Nellie, falls in love with the Frenchman. But then she tries to reject her suitor, only because he has two children who were mothered by a now dead Polynesian woman. Nellie’s racial prejudice won’t allow her to love this man. In a subplot, a young American lieutenant falls in love with a Polynesian girl, but flatly rejects the suggestion of marriage based on her race.

The set is well done, with bamboo curtains, sand dunes, the beautiful sea and palm trees. A very realistic WWII airplane is on the stage, along with Luther Billis’ businesses. Billis is a very enterprising sailor, offering a laundry service and showers as well as having his fellow sailors manufacturing souvenirs. We are also taken into de Becque’s luxurious plantation home with its rattan furniture and silver tea service.

Carmen Cusack is excellent as Nellie Forbush. She plays the hick girl who is overwhelmed by de Becque very convincingly; she’s a perfect cockeyed optimist with a delightful Arkansas accent. When he first sings of his attraction to her, she is suitably embarrassed. David Pittsinger is very good in the role of Emile de Becque – his rendition “Some Enchanted Evening” is worth the ticket price alone.

Timothy Gulen as Luther Billis and Jodi Kumera as Bloody Mary provide the comedy but also reveal the softer side of their characters. Aaron Ramey sings the beautiful “Younger than Springtime” perfectly, but is not quite convincing in his love for Liat.

The cast of Seabees are talented singers and dancers in the numbers “Bloody Mary” and “There is Nothing Like a Dame”. Similarly, the nurses are great fun in “I’m Gonna Wash that Man Right Outa my Hair” and “A Wonderful Guy”.

Act II commences with The Thanksgiving Follies, which are great fun, showing some fine talent in a variety show to help the Americans pass the time while waiting for the battle action to begin. The nurses dance in turkey costumes, their fanned tails made of pleated Life magazines.

Drawing on James A. Michener’s 1947 Pulitzer prize-winning novel, The Tales of the South Pacific, this Broadway musical was first staged in 1949. One would think the material would be dated, but it has withstood the test of time. The characters are recognizable today and the challenges of war, love and racism continue to test the human spirit.

For tickets call 416-644-3665 or go to www.dancaptickets.com

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