by Terrance Mc Arthur
Oscar Hammerstein II and Richard Rodgers were major forces in musical theatre from the ’40s to the ’60s, penning the words and music for Oklahoma!, Carousel, The King and I, The Sound of Music, and… South Pacific, now a Good Company Players production at Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater through May 17.
Based on stories from James Michener’s Tales of the South Pacific, the show features such classic songs as “Some Enchanted Evening,” “Bali Hai,” “Happy Talk,” “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair,” “Bloody Mary,” “Younger Than Springtime,” “(I’m in Love With) A Wonderful Guy,” “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught,” and others. Drop the story, and you’d still have an hour-plus concert of familiar favorites.
South Pacific tells of Nellie Forbush (Logan Carnation), an Arkansas-born nurse who has fallen for Emile De Becque (Eric Bailey), a French-émigré planter. Their age difference and his mixed-race children are obstacles to happy-ever-aftering. Lt. Cable (Jordan Litz), of well-to-do Philadelphia stock, is introduced to the lovely Liat (Kirstin Bangs) by her enterprising mother, Bloody Mary ( Janet Glaude), who has been tutored in profanity by the sailors, Seabees, and Marines stationed on the tropical island. Luther Billis (CJ Dion), an anything-for-a-buck entrepreneur, wants to make a profit out of World War II. Mix them up with Japanese troop movements, societal prejudices, and military protocol, and you have a musical that has lasted for 76 years.
Carnation is young and chipper, moving confidently about the Dinner Theater’s small stage area. She pairs well with Bailey, who comes across as someone who admires Nellie’s enthusiasm for life, not as a dirty old cradle-robber.
It is amazing to see the veteran Glaude, one of the classiest ladies to ever perform with the Good Company Players, transform herself into a foul-mouthed capitalist, ready to sell her daughter to the highest bidder. Her singing is commanding and sure-footed; every note of “Bali Hai” and “Happy Talk” is right where it belongs. A set of shadowy Polynesian dancers amplify the mood of “Bali Hai,” and the evocative hula hands of Bangs elevate “Happy Talk” from silliness to a sinuous love call, teamed with Glaude’s vocals.
Cable is often a nothin’-muffin of a part, inhabited by good-looking singers who don’t do much with the character. Litz, who played Tony in GCP’s West Side Story, is very handsome, and he sings well, but he provides an intensity and an understanding of the lieutenant’s conflicts that draws the audience’s sympathy.
Dion makes a startling appearance in the “Honey Bun” number, and Greg Ruud and Brian Ruud have some solidly lighthearted moments as a commanding officer and his second-in-command.
Dan Pessano, the grandmaster of GCP, has artfully created another wonderwork, expanding on the material where it needs to grow, and altering elements to fit his casting pool and the needs of the theatre.
Come to South Pacific, where gentle, musical breezes caress you, and great food accompanies great entertainment (I recommend the cheesecake). Tickets can be purchased on their website and you can also learn more on KRL’s local theatre page.
Check out more theatre reviews & other local entertainment articles in our Arts & Entertainment section.