South Pacific

A Majestic Night at the Theater

samantha-hill-robert-cuccioli-photo-by-brett-beiner James Michener, book editor and university instructor that could have avoided military service in World War II, enlisted in the U.S. Navy in October 1942. He arrived at the South Pacific Theater in April 1944 and was delegated to talk about the history of the Navy in the Pacific. After being in a plane crash near New Caledonia which almost cost him his life he decided to write fiction, and he began listening to the stories told by soldiers, and this is where he commenced with South Pacific.

South Pacific deals with the unfortunate convolution of race, patriotism, and loss that embark on an island struggling to rise above their biases that even the enchanting setting of a beautiful tropical paradise cannot protect its residents from the prejudices of World War II. Where distressing territory will build apprehension around interracial romance and bitter truths of being taught to hate and fear will encompass the ideal place of happiness.

Richard Rodgers & Oscar Hammerstein landmark musical "South Pacific" winner of the 1950 Pulitzer Prize for  Drama and ten Tony Awards including Best Musical still resonates today after nearly 70 years.

robert-cuccioli-hunter-dimailig-rika-nishikawa-photo-by-brett-beinerSouth Pacific, based on racist views during World War II was centered on an American nurse Ensign Nellie Forbush played by Broadway Veteran ("The Phantom of the Opera") Samantha Hill stationed on a South Pacific island during World War II. Nellie is a self-proclaimed "little hick" from Little Rock, Arkansas who falls in love with a middle-aged expatriate French plantation owner Emile de Becque played by leading man Robert Cuccioli (a Tony Award-nominee for "Jekyll & Hyde") who struggles to accept his mixed-race children.

A secondary romance, between a U.S. Marine Lieutenant John Cable (Austin Colby) who arrives on the island from Guadalcanal, falls in love with a young Tonkinese woman Liat played by Sarah Lo. Because Hammerstein lacked military knowledge, he had some difficulties writing this part of the script; and needed the assistance of the original production director, Joshua Logan; which he graciously give credit as co-writer of the book.

South Pacific, packed with original songs that have become a staple within our culture and America's history that talks about the issue of racial prejudice and it is candidly explored throughout the musical, with the most litigious song, "You've Got to Be Carefully Taught" sung by the lieutenant Cable in Act II. However, South Pacific offers other great memorable songs such as "Some Enchanted Evening," "There is Nothing Like a Dame" and "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Out of My Hair" (in Act I!)

austin-colby-photo-by-brett-beinerExtraordinary singing also comes from Austin Colby (Joseph Cable) who sings "Younger Than Springtime" to Liat (Sarah Lo) aware of his family's prejudices, while exploring his fears of the social consequences should he marry his Asian sweetheart or walk away from his true love. 

A sassy middle-aged Tokinese vendor of grass skirts by the name of Bloody Mary (Yvonne Strumecki) who happens to be the only Civilian woman on the island sings "Bali Ha'i." She desperately targets Cable's character as a potential husband for her daughter, Liat who she believes can live a better life by marrying an American officer.

However, comic relief is forever present with the crafty navy Seabee Luther Billis played by Matt Crowle who dually notes throughout the play the absence of available women on the island, since Navy nurses were commissioned officers and off-limits to enlisted men. Nonetheless, Luther implements some amusing add-on comedy tactics such as clacking his teeth to donning island drag to show off his rolling tattooed belly.

Samantha Hill, country style, Dolly Parton like accent was sensational as Nellie Forbush and with Robert Cuccioli is Emile, the two were a delight to witness. Austin Colby role as the dreamy hunk overlooks his operatic vocals and that he's a diverse actor that has performed in The Sound of Music and West Side Story. Lastly, Matt Crowle, Jerry Lewis-like antics was a show stealer. He was hilariously funny and made this version of a famous historical play entertaining, and thoroughly a joy to behold.    

Director Victor Malana Maog has an excellent ensemble team that brings this classic film to life at Drury Lane Theatre which was aided by music director Roberta Duchak. Together they made South Pacific another timeless delight.

Let's Play highly recommend this musical.

The cast includes:

Robert Cuccioli (Emile de Becque )

Samantha Hill (Ensign Nellie Forbush)

Austin Colby (Lt. Joseph Cable),

Yvonne Strumecki (Bloody Mary)

Matt Crowle (Luther Billis)

Elic Bramlett(Capt. George Brackett)

Harter Clingman (Stewpot)

Matthew Keffer (Cmdr. William Harbison)

Sarah Lo (Liat)

Sam Shankman (Professor)

Hunter DiMailig (Jerome)

Rika Nishikawa (Ngana)

Miles S. Chong (Jerome alternate)

Rachel Cornille (Ngana alternate)

The Ensemble includes Blair Beasley, Kayla Boye, Nathaniel Braga, Joe Capstick, Matt Casey, Erica Evans, John Gurdian, Ashley Lanyon, Rachel Osting, Brandon Pisano, Allie Pizzo, Peter Sipla, Erica Stephan, Patrick Michael Tierney and Denzel Tsopnang.

 

Drury Lane Theatre opens 2018/2019 Season with

South Pacific

Where: Drury Lane Theatre, 100 Drury Ln., Oakbrook Terrace

Tickets: $47-$62; dinner theater packages, $64-$85

Info: drurylanetheatre.com

Runtime: 2 hours, 30 minutes, one intermission

Music by Richard Rodgers

Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II

Book by Oscar Hammerstein II and Joshua Logan

Adapted from Tales of the South Pacific by James Michener

Directed by Victor Malana Maog

Choreography by Otis Sallid

Musical Direction by Roberta Duchak

 

April 5 - June 17, 2018

 

Filed under: ChicagoNow

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