Theatre Mirror Reviews-"South Pacific"

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entire contents copyright 2014 by Tony Annicone

"South Pacific"

A Review by Tony Annicone

The Renaissance City Theatre Company, the producing entity for the Granite Theatre current show is Rodgers and Hammerstein's Pulitzer prize winning musical, "South Pacific." The story centers on an American nurse stationed on a South Pacific island during World War II who falls in love with a widowed French plantation owner but struggles to accept his mixed race children. A secondary romance between a young U.S. Lieutenant and a young Tonkinese woman, explores the consequences should he marry his Asian sweetheart, who is the daughter of Bloody Mary, the seller of Island wares. The prejudice of people is important message for people to overcome now as it was then. Director David Jepson, musical director Stephen DeCesare and choreographer Lisa Clough cast topnotch performers in these roles. They bring them to life for current day audiences to savor and enjoy. Their combined efforts win their hard working cast a standing ovation as their reward on a job very well done.

David obtains stellar performances from his performers while Stephen obtains terrific vocals from them. Lisa's dances are seen in "Bloody Mary", "Nothing Like a Dame",the French version of "Bali Hai","Wash that Man" and "Honey Bun". Hard working stage manager, Barbara Collins keeps things flowing along wonderfully with this huge cast.Leading the cast as Nellie Forbush is Sophie Kreyssig. She does a excellent job as this spunky nurse. Sophie's lovely voice is heard in "Cock-eyed Optimist", "My Girl  Back Home", "Wash That Man" and "Wonderful Guy" and she beautifully handles the transition from wide eyed hick to mature woman who finally overcomes her prejudices by show's end. Her comic scene with Billis and the chorus is "Honey Bun" and Sophie really shines in the dramatic scenes when Nellie thinks Emile is dead. This gutwrenching moment moves the audience to tears. Brava! Robert Grady does a fantastic  job as Emile in his lines and with his strong baritone voice in his songs, too. His numbers include the romantic "Some Enchanted Evening" with Sophie and the powerful "This Nearly Was Mine" which tugs at your heartstrings during his stirring rendition. David's blocking of this number is terrific. Other strong dramatic moments include his confession to Nellie, his refusal and later acceptance to go on the mission and his final appearance in the last scene brings tears to your eyes, bringing the show to its satisfying conclusion.

Maureen Noel is a hoot as Bloody Mary. She makes a gangbusters entrance and brings this comical character to life and is funny in Act 1. Maureen becomes more serious in Act 2 when she wants Cable to marry Liat or Mary will marry her off to another man. Maureen displays her voice in "Bali Hai" when she tries to convince Cable to come there and "Happy Talk" when she tries to convince him to marry her daughter. Her language malapropisms in Act 1 are hilarious. Maureen delivers the goods in this role. Her beautiful daughter is played by Michaela Pendola as Liat. She alternates in this role with Katie Flaningan. She does a terrific dance to "Happy Talk." Max Leatham who is 17 years old is marvelous as Cable, the doomed lover of Liat. He displays his voice in "My Girl Back Home", "Younger Than Springtime", my favorite song and in "You've Got to Be Carefully Taught" where he says prejudice is learned and not born in you. I first reviewed Max as a 5 year old in Christmas Carol at this theatre back in 2002.

One of the funniest characters in this show is Ryan Sekac as Luther Billis, a conman sailor who is always out to make a buck. His antics as this crazy womanizing character are splendid. Ryan leads the men in "Bloody Mary", "Nothing Like a Dame" and "Honey Bun" songs and dances. He steals many a scene as this wild and crazy character. Jim Kenney is the gruff Captain Brackett who keeps his men in line and Tim Cavanaugh as Harbison, his second in command. They handle their comic and dramatic moments with finesse. The cute young children of Emile are played by Calista Aguinado and Bobbie Doherty. They are cute as buttons in this show while singing "Dites Moi." Jessica Arsenian and Peter Previty play them at alternating performances. I have many pleasant memories of this show having directed it back in 1994. So for fabulous version of this classic tale, be sure to catch "South Pacific" by The Renaissance City Theatre Company before time runs out. Tell them Tony sent you.

"South Pacific" (10 October - 16 November)
@ 1 Granite Street, WESTERLY RI

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide