“South Pacific” – ASU Gammage
This review aired on KBAQ January 12, 2012
STELLAR “SOUTH PACIFIC” AT ASU GAMMAGE
Broadway Across America – Arizona, ASU Gammage
Is there anything better in theater than a stellar production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s 1949 musical hit “South Pacific”? That’s exactly what you’ll see at ASU Gammage where the captivating tour artfully recreates the 2008 Tony Award winning Lincoln Center Theater revival.
Everything about the Broadway staging was perfect from an impeccable cast, to the faithfully restored now-standard cuts, to the richness of Richard Rodgers score. The production was staged magnificently by Bartlett Sher. The tour captures that revival’s sheen with a flawless cast, a 30 piece orchestra, and most of the original sets and staging although the Broadway production team wasn’t involved. We rarely get Broadway touring productions here that are this good.
The touching musical involves a couple of World War II romances set on two small Pacific islands. The show was ahead of its time by dealing with bi-racial romances and revealing comically the corruption of American troops during the war.
The romances sell the show. Nurse Nellie from Arkansas falls for French planter Emile but then has second thoughts because his two young children are part Polynesian. Nellie’s prejudices get in the way until the planter leaves to help the military rid the area of Japanese soldiers. Also touching is Lt. Joseph Cable’s infatuation with Bloody Mary’s native daughter, Liat. Like Nellie, Cable’s been raised as a bigot. Surrounding these romances are rowdy Seabees who add raucous humor.
Joe Langworth lovingly recreates the revival’s entertaining staging and musical numbers. Although reduced for travel, the lush original set designs are almost intact and move with an elegant fluidity that makes the production cinematic. The cast recreates the revival cast’s interpretations. Katie Reid’s stalwart Nellie realizes her love for Emile supercedes her upbringing. She sings with a pleasant abandon and lusty charm. Marcelo Guzzo’s Emile is all suave masculinity and he sounds glorious in “Some Enchanted Evening” and “This Nearly Was Mine.” Cathy Foy-Mahi’s earthy Bloody Mary captures her native energy while her “Bali Ha’i” impresses. Shane Donovan’s stalwart Cable is infatuated with Hsin-Yu Liao’s captivating Liat, while Christian Marriner’s Luther adds comic splash. John Mezzio’s orchestra plays remarkably and best, this tour’s impeccable sound system doesn’t allow a missed word.
If an impeccably staged and perfectly cast production of a classic musical is something you enjoy, get to ASU Gammage before Sunday when this stunning “South Pacific” closes. For tickets, call the Ticketmaster box office at 800-982-2787 or order tickets online at www.asugammage.com.