Possibly the greatest Rodgers & Hammerstein musical, “South Pacific” is dear to the hearts of the greatest generation and their children. Set in the Pacific Theatre during WWII, men and women face the terrors of war and must rise above personal tribulations to bring hope and freedom to the world and to each other. The novel, “Tales of the South Pacific” by James A. Michener adapts wonderfully into the musical. The lovely nurse from Little Rock, Nellie Forbush must reconcile her southern roots with the love of the slightly jaded Frenchman, Emile De Becque. He must, in turn, realize his obligation to participate in a fight he thought he had left behind. Lt. Cable, of the Philadelphian Cable’s, also must overcome prejudice to love Liat, the beautiful daughter of Bloody Mary. Bloody Mary brings the dreams of Bali Hai to the Islanders as she sells souvenirs and dickers expertly with sailors of every mark. Luther Billis is a master of harmless nefarious plotting and is the bane of Commander Harbison and Captain Brackett who nevertheless appreciate and use his talent. “South Pacific” is a love story and a war saga. Also “South Pacific” is a musical masterpiece blending comic overtones and serious circumstances, far closer to real life than most musicals have the privilege to become.
Don Jordan, Artistic Director of City-Rep and David Herendeen, Director of Opera and Music Theatre for OCU decided to team up for this production staged at Oklahoma City University for one weekend only. Jordan is also Production Stage Manager for “South Pacific” with Director Len Pfluger and Music Director/Conductor Jan McDaniel creating a magnificent example of professional excellence for Oklahoma City audiences. Jason Foreman, Scenic Designer has created a spectacular set and Lighting Designer Aaron Mooney has lit this set creating a wide range of moods and modes. Costume Designer Ashley Bellet has developed beautiful and appropriate costumes shown to perfection by the dancers under the guidance of Choreographer Megan Clark. Clearly, Jeremy Littlefield, Technical Director, has a great crew to work with in the production. Our own editor for Oklahoma Arts: Scene & Hurd, Anna Holloway is Dramaturg and she knows exactly where and when the accurate period should be revealed in a show as well as where to place the period in an article.
McDaniel conducts superbly from the outset and Pfluger has the touch of a superlative director as this cast demonstrates with perfect performance. While the vocals are wonderful, the emotion that carries the story is heart wrenching and real. The cast is a mix of Equity Actors and Students. The performance of the students from Oklahoma City University meet the standards set by the professional cast members affiliated with City-Rep. Christopher Carl as Emile De Becque is the ideal French gentlemen; always a little sexier yet genuinely tender in his expressions. What a voice Carl has! Tiffan Borelli is an Oklahoma City University graduate, and her career reflects the influence and mastery from Florence Birdwell. Her voice matures and matches her emotions enduringly. Carl and Borelli are a perfect pair. Linda Leonard is amusing and delightful as Bloody Mary, capturing the saunter of a secure woman sincerely. Nathan Goodrich is excellent as Lt. Joseph Cable, and the sparks between the lonely lieutenant and Hannah Descartin’s lovely Liat are visible until crushed in their embrace. Goodrich makes the most of his dialogue and Descartin makes the most of her body language. Benjamin Camenzuli is brilliant in the role of Luther Billis. Michael Gibbons as Captain Brackett and Steve Emerson as Commander Harbison look and act exactly as those dedicated Naval Officers that make the stories in the Pacific arena so poignant. Asante Gunewardena as Henri gives us room to smile as he shepherds the two children of De Becque, Katie Mei Markmiller and Brayden QB Tran. Sean Burroughs is such a handsome Buzz Adams, confident pilot and Michael Martin is great in the role of Stewpot. Katelyn Baron as Bloody Mary’s Assistant and Anna Bookout, Head Nurse round out the cast of principles expertly, but the remaining Nurses and Sailors round out the show magnificently! There is not enough room to name all of the cast members or the 38 piece orchestra but the contribution makes this a standing ovation production.
“South Pacific” only runs through April 27th. Tickets may still be available by calling 405-208-5227 for the Oklahoma City University Theatre box office or visit www.cityrep.com. Show times are 8:00pm Friday and Saturday evenings and 3:00pm on Sunday. The performance location is the Kirkpatrick Auditorium on the campus of Oklahoma City University. There are lots of parking options on campus and reasonably close. Make your reservations now because this is truly a wonderful show from City-Rep and OKCU. Ticket prices are reasonable, and the performances are truly a gift from the gifted.