RODGERS & HAMMERSTEIN'S SOUTH PACIFICMusic by: Richard Rodgers
Lyrics by: Oscar Hammerstein II
Book by: Oscar Hammerstein II and Joshua Logan
Adopted from the Pulitzer Prize Winning Novel, “Tales of the South Pacific” by James A. Michener
Granbury Theatre Company
Music Director—Greg Doss
Choreography – Tabitha Ibarra
Scenic Designers—Phil Groeschel and Kerri Pavelick
Lighting Designer—Cameron Barrus
Sound Designer – Joshua Carpenter
Costume Designer – Emily Warwick
CAST (at reviewed performance)
Emile de Beque—Brian Lawson
Ensign Nellie Forbush—Amber Lanning
Lt. Joseph Cable—JD Choate
Luther Billis—Jeff Meador
Bloody Mary—Bentleigh Nesbit
Capt. George Brackett—John Lewis
Cmdr. William Harbison—Kyle Hoffman
Ngana—Audrey Ann McKee
Henri—Moises Abran Zamora
Lt. Buzz Adams—Christian Loper
Professor—Cole Brayton Lucas
Yeoman Herbert Quale—Brennan Ross
Radio Operator Bob McCaffrey—Charles Mason
Seaman Mike West—Cutter Willmeth
Seaman Morton Wise—Cody John Mullican
Seaman Tom O’Brien—Joshua Emmanuel McRae Davis
Seaman James Hayes—Levi Casler
Bloody Mary’s Assistant/Ensign Pam Whitman—Hannah Swaim
Lt. Genevieve Marshall—Tiffany Trimble
Ensign Janet MacGregor—Cessany Ford
Ensign Sue Yaeger—Madison Heaps
Ensign Bessie Noonan—Rachel Mastick
Ensign Connie Walewski—Brooke Goodson
Ensign Lisa Minelli—Jenna Hagan
Reviewed Performance: 6/17/2017
Reviewed by Genevieve Croft , Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
With music by Richard Rodgers and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, South Pacific begins as a parade of some of America’s favorite show tunes – “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair,” “Some Enchanted Evening,” “There Is Nothing Like a Dame,” and “I’m in Love with a Wonderful Guy.”
Adapted from the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Tales of the South Pacific by James A. Michener, has become one of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s most topical works-exploring the themes of racism and a world at war – (issues which are still relevant today) caused a bit of a stir when originally produced in 1949.
Director Jay Lewis brought together a tight ensemble cast of youth and veteran actors who worked well together, and created a fantastic representation of this classic staple of musical theater. The company was so fully charged with energy. From the moment the overture began, the audience was drawn into the South Pacific Islands during the Second World War. Overall, the staging and conceptualization were very pleasant, and visually pleasing. It is apparent to me that a lot of time and care went into the vision of this production. The younger members of the ensemble were a treat to watch, and they certainly were able to hold their own on stage with so many seasoned veterans.
Set Designers Phil Groeschel and Kerri Pavelick successfully transformed the proscenium stage into the multiple locations in the story. If you have never been to the Granbury Opera House, I guarantee you that you are in for an experience. This is the fifth or sixth time that I have been to see a show at Granbury Theatre Company and the Opera House, and each time I am so impressed with how Mr. Groeschel and Ms. Pavelick are able to transform the stage, and to transport you to a different place and time. It was impressive to see so many locations established with very little physical set pieces. Perhaps the most extraordinary scenic element was seeing the grand terrace of Emile de Beque created with two huge bay windows complete with curtains blowing into the breeze. With this, I was instantly captivated and pulled into the world of the story. I was especially impressed with how quickly set pieces moved on and off-allowing each transition to flow directly into the scene. The scenic designs allowed the story to move quickly from one event to the next. From the fantastic working shower (“Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair”) to the mysterious island of Bali Ha’i.
There were some apparent audio issues that plagued the cast, it was hard to hear the cast at certain points throughout the production, and there was some microphone interference that would intermittently make it difficult to hear the actors, as well. However, the cast and crew were able to overcome these issues as the production hit stride, and the cast handled these issues with professionalism. Additionally, there were a few stumbles (pacing and energy seemed to drag early in the second act) but considering the complexity of the production (the music was very difficult in this production) this could easily be excused. As the production progresses further into the production run, I fully expect the energy to remain consistent throughout the course of the production.
Emily Warwick designed costumes that were not only period-appropriate, but had a great attention to detail. There were a lot of details that Ms. Warwick incorporated into each costume, making them visually stunning and very creative. I was especially impressed with Ms. Warwick’s costume designs for the “Thanksgiving Follies.” Each girl performing in the variety show, wore items that might have been found around the Naval base during the time period. Each Ensign donned items that were the epitome of the 1940’s (vintage newspapers and military mess kits). Ms. Warwick took these items and truly made it appear as if these young girls had created their own costumes for their Thanksgiving Day performance. They were colorful, full of creativity, and certainly one of the highlights of the costume design for this reviewer.
Amber Lanning was phenomenal in the role of heroine, Ensign Nellie Forbush (a self-proclaimed hick from Little Rock, stationed on an island in the South Pacific during WWII). Lanning has an easy charm and an infectious smile, all the while carrying the weight of Nellie’s troubles. Perhaps a bit quirkier than your run-of-the-mill “cock-eyed optimist,” she contrasts very nicely with the talented Brian Lawson as the local French planter, Emile de Beque. As they quickly fall for each other, both handle the sweeping score deftly while diving deep into the emotional baggage of troubled pasts and current prejudices.
Lightening the heavy mood is a beach full of handsome Seabees helmed by the mischievous and comedic Jeff Meador (Luther Billis). A strong ensemble with a booming sound – under the musical direction of Greg Doss– they delight in antagonizing local merchant Bloody Mary (Bentleigh Nesbit) when they’re not ogling the female nurses. Ms. Nesbit provided the appropriate dose of comedy with her over the top facial expressions and her spot on delivery of the perfect Tonkinese dialect. Ms. Nesbit has consistent energy and enthusiasm during the performance. While not a highly demanding ensemble show, everyone stationed on the island brings a welcomed bit of uniqueness to the group, making the landscape feel all the more genuine.
Another standout performance was JD Choate in the role of Lieutenant Joseph Cable. Choate’s vocal performance was outstanding. Mr. Choate truly portrayed Lt. Cable’s nobility as a potential military hero, and his sadness as a star-crossed lover in scenes with his beloved, Liat (Manuela Lee). At times, I found myself welling up with emotion due to the realism that Mr. Choate incorporated into the role.
This production of South Pacific is definitely worth seeing. The attention to detail evident in all aspects of this production makes for a pleasant experience at the theatre. If you are looking for classic musical theatre, look no further. South Pacific is one of those productions (especially being a part of the Rodgers and Hammerstein’s library) that everyone should see. Even if you have never seen South Pacific, I can almost guarantee that you have heard one of the familiar songs from the score somewhere. Throughout the production, I heard songs, and I thought to myself, “Oh…that is from South Pacific!” If you are a fan of the Rodgers and Hammerstein catalogue, South Pacific is a must see. Besides, what better way to spend these June and July days than taking a vacation to the South Pacific?
Granbury Theatre Company
Granbury Opera House
133 E. Pearl Street
Granbury, Texas 76048
Plays through July 9th.
Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm
Saturday and Sunday Matinees at 2:00 pm
Ticket prices range from $25-$30 depending on seating (Prime: Rows A, B, C, D, Standard or Balcony: Rows CR, E, F, G, H, J, Balcony)
For groups of 10 or more, please call the box office for rates & reservations.
For information and to purchase tickets, go to www.granburytheatrecompany.org or call: 817-579-0952.