Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
Book by Oscar Hammerstein II and Joshua Logan
Directed by Bartlett Sher,
direction recreated by Sarna Lapine
Music Direction by Ted Sperling,
recreated by Joe Langworth
Musical Staging by Christopher Gattelli
Produced by NETworks Presentations, LLC
At the Palace Theatre, Chicago
Spirited non-Equity cast makes the trimmed down economy sized tour of South Pacific worthy.
Featuring 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.
The young cast features Jennie Sophia taking over the lead for the first time at Thursday’s performance. She nailed all the charm and spunk of Nellie Forbush as well as singing her tunes nicely. She easily established sparks with her love interest Marcelo Guzzo, the rich voiced bass baritone who plays the French plantation owner Emile De Becque. Add Christian Marriner as Luther Billis and Shane Donovan as Lt. Joe Cable and the leads turn in nice performances in this economy-sized non-Equity tour of South Pacific. The orchestra (10 member) sounded a tad thin and the nursing core and the Seebies seem reduced but the production honored the terrific lyrics of Oscar Hammerstein II and Richard Rodgers’ haunting score.
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.
This tour could have been great if the producers would only negotiate with Actor’s Equity to compromise so that these tours could have some Equity players in key roles thus uplifting the productions to justify the $85 plus ticket price. This non-Equity production just does play as worthy but it could have some stronger players and a larger orchestra. As it plays, it is work seeing. Let’s hope the producers will do the right thing soon.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: February 16, 2012
At the Palace Theatre, 151 W. Randolph, Chicago, tickets 418 – $85, running time is 2 hours, 45 minutes with intermission, through February 26, 2012