Theatre Mirror Reviews-"South Pacific"

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entire contents copyright 2014 by Tony Annicone

"South Pacific"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Reagle Music Theatre's first show of their 46th season is Rodgers and Hammerstein's 1949 timeless classic "South Pacific" which takes you on a musical journey to the South Seas where romance, war and prejudice stir your emotions. This musical swept the 1950 Tony Awards winning ten awards and won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The main storyline is of young, innocent, Ensign Nellie Forbush falling in love with middle-aged French plantation owner, Emile DeBecque during World War II. It also contains the secondary plot of Lietenant Joe Cable falling in love with a Tonkinese girl Liat, the daughter of Bloody Mary, the seller of Island wares. The prejudice of people is an important message for people to overcome now as it was back then. Throw in assorted sailors, nurses, two children and two officers and you have the ingredients for this sensational musical presentation. Director David Hugo breathes new life into this show, bringing it alive to new audiences with his splendid cast and hardworking crew with topnotch musical direction by Dan Rodriguez and splendid choreography by Rachel Bertone, earning it a well deserved standing ovation at the close of the show.

David blocks the show marvelously, creating picture postcard moments all night long. He picks the best performers for these roles, mixing the comic and dramatic moments together marvelously. The ending leaves you in tears at its poignancy. Dan Rodriguez taught the glorious harmonies of the men and women's chorus while Jeff Leonard conducts a lush 19 member orchestra which is abulous. Rachel's dance numbers are spectacular whether it be the sailors two numbers, the nurse's two numbers and the jitterbug and Charleston dance. The combination of their expertise delivers a Broadway caliber show in Waltham, MA for local audiences to savor and enjoy.

The statuesque, beautiful Katie Clark is perfect as Nellie. Her glorious voice fills the air in all her numbers, "Cock-eyed Optimist", "Wash that Man" and "Wonderful Guy". Katie displays her strong acting range going from an innocent girl to a mature woman who overcomes her prejudice by the end of the show.  The transition from wide eyed hick from Little Rock who sees life outside for the first time is splendidly done. Her most dramatic moments occur when she thinks Emile is dead in both the office and outdoor scenes, moving the audience to tears with her powerhouse acting skills. Also the duet of "My Girl Back Home" with Cable, gives more depth to the character of Nellie, too. Katie shines in her comic scenes including the hilarious "Honey Bun" number with Billis and the chorus. Brava! Peter Adams is terrific as Emile, in all his lines and songs. His numbers include the romantic "Some Enchanted Evening" with Katie and the gut wrenching "This Nearly Was Mine" which displays his powerful baritone voice and left me in tears. Other strong dramatic scenes include his confession to Nellie, his refusal to go on the mission, his acceptance of this mission later on in the show. His appearance in the last scene brings tears to your eyes bringing the show to its satisfying conclusion. Peter handles the comic moments with ease, too. He adds depth to this character. Katie and Peter make a fantastic couple in this classic musical.

Lydia Gaston as Bloody Mary displays her voice in the lovely "Bali Hai" which captures the allure of the South Sea Islands as well as its beauty and power. (The gorgeous and stunning lighting by David Wilson, makes this a standout moment in the show and makes you want to visit this Island on vacation.) She has many hilarious scenes and language malapropisms in the first act trying to sell her wares but it is the dramatic confrontation with Cable in Act 2 that leaves you stunned at its powerful impact. Lydia also sings "Happy Talk" where she tries to entice Cable into marrying her daughter, Liat and her powerful angry outburst when he refuses to do so is well done. I last reviewed her as Lady Thiang in "The King & I" at Reagle back in 2007. Her beautiful daughter, Liat is played by Samantha Ma whose lines are all in French but her loving glances and scenes comes through. She does a lovely dance during "Happy Talk". Mark Linehan is excellent as Lt. Joe Cable, the doomed lover of Liat. He brings this character to life with his strong acting talents and possesses a magnificent tenor voice in the exhilirating, "Younger Than Springtime" my favorite song in the show, in "My Girl Back Home" another favorite of mine, and in "You've Got to Be Carefully Taught" where he explains how prejudice is learned and not born in you. Mark's voice soars off the charts in these songs as well as in the "Bali Hai" reprise. It is as if this role was written for him. One of the best roles I have seen him perform.

One of the funniest character's is Aaron Dore as Luther Billis, a conman sailor who is always out to make a buck. He leads the men in "Bloody Mary", "Nothing Like a Dame" and "Honey Bun" songs and dances. Billis' antics as a womanizer and a devious sailor are wonderfully done, too. R.Glen Michell is the gruff Captain Brackett who keeps his men in line while Rich Allegretto plays his second in command Harbison. They handle the dramatic and comic moments with finesse, keeping them flowing along smoothly.Eliza Zangerl and Jackson Daley play the children of Emile and are cute as buttons. They sing "Dites Moi" with Peter at the start of the show and with Katie in the final scene.The supporting cast members do topnotch work in their singing and dancing numbers. I have many pleasant memories of "South Pacific", having directed it back in 1994. So for a fabulous version of the classic Broadway musical and a look back at the world at war in the 1940's in this splendid recreation of a bygone era, be sure to catch "South Pacific" at Reagle Music Theatre before time runs out. Tell them Tony sent you.

"South Pacific" (12 - 22 June)
@ Waltham High School, 617 Lexington Street, WALTHAM MA

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide