Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
Book by Oscar Hammerstein II & Joshua Logan
Directed by David H. Bell
Music direction by Ryan T. Nelson
Choreography by Matt Raftery
At Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire
Heartfelt remount of a classic Broadway musical still packs deep emotions
Featuring Richard Rodgers’ most elaborate and lush score that produced such songs as “A Cockeyed Optimist,” “Some Enchanted Evening, ” “There is Nothin’ Like A Dame,” “A Wonderful Guy,” ‘Bali Ha’I,” “Younger Than Springtime,” “This Nearly Was Mine” and the, at the time, controversial “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught,” South Pacific helped knock down racial barriers and prejudice in a time when such thoughts were hardly ever spoken. This romantic Broadway musical is both moving and sentimental as it depicts the foibles of men at war. Director David H. Bell has cast quite well and he has used the intimate Marriott stage most efficiently to produce a heartfelt and deeply emotional production of the 1949 Pulitzer Prize winning South Pacific.
The terrific cast features Elizabeth Lanza as the spirited nurse from Little Rock who falls in love with the mature French plantation owner. Lanza nailed all the charm and spunk of Nellie Forbush as well as singing her tunes nicely. She easily established sparks with her love interest Stephen R. Buntrock, the powerful tenor who plays the French plantation owner Emile De Becque. Add Stef Tovar as Luther Billis and Ben Jacoby as Lt. Joe Cable and the leads turn in fine performances in this fluid production of South Pacific. The orchestra (10 member) sounded lush and the nursing core and the Seebees sang and danced with manic aplomb. The production honored the terrific lyrics of Oscar Hammerstein II and Richard Rodgers’ haunting score considered by many as the finest score ever in a Broadway show.
It is important that classics like South Pacific be presented in their entirety with all the songs, all the underscoring and all reprises so as to let the next generation experience all the splendor of the original production. This show does that effectively. Granted contemporary theatre aficionados may question many of the story elements and persona of key characters but they will have no quibble with Rodgers and Hammerstein marvelous songs.
I was particularly impressed with Stephen Bumtrock’s vulnerability and his rich tenor voice which was a welcome change from the usual baritones cast as DeBecque. He and Lanza had a plausible romantic spark that added depth to the romantic flavor of the story. Bethany Thomas nailed her songs as Bloody Mary while Stef Tovar was terrific as the rascal Seabee Luther Billis. South Pacific works well on the intimate space at Marriott Theatre making it a ‘must see’ show for springtime.
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For more info checkout the South Pacific page at theatreinchicago.com. tickets $40 – $48, running time is 2 hours, 30 minutes with intermission, through June 2, 2013