By Marlene S. Gaylinn
Under the all-weather tent at Waveny Park, New Canaan, you can sit comfortably and enjoy nature and cool, hill top breezes while watching a wonderful production of “South Pacific.” This is summer theatre at its finest. And, no wonder -- it’s Summer Theatre of New Canaan’s (STONC) 10th successful season under Melody Libonati’s Artistic Direction. Her family team, which has accumulated numerous nominations for awards by Connecticut Critics circle, continues to present the most entertaining, summer productions in our area. This season, daughter, Allegra Libonati directs “South Pacific” which is headed by some magnificent, professional voices accompanied by a 10-piece orchestra, confidently conducted by David Hancock Turner.
If you haven’t seen this Rogers and Hammerstein’s musical by now, you must have been isolated somewhere since birth. To refresh your mind, the musical takes place on a remote island in the South Pacific during World War II. It’s a boring, military base that saw little action -- except for one strategic maneuver at the end of the show. The heavy, tropical atmosphere here is happily lightened up by the appearances of Luther Billis (Nick Reynolds) a rough and tumble sailor, and Bloody Mary (Janelle Robinson) an aggressive islander who sells grass skirts and shrunken human heads. A smart operator, she also wants to marry her daughter to handsome officer, Lt. Joe Cable (Jason Evans). Reynolds confident stage presence, ease with timing, and tattooed body language gains this eccentric, fun-loving guy our complete attention, while Robinson’s stunning singing and expressive, re-interpretation of her role is an equal delight.
However, our main attention, is immediately placed on two pairs of sweethearts who are torn apart by the racial prejudices of that period. Nellie (Tiffan Borelli), a nurse at the base, is attracted to plantation owner Emile De Becque (Daniel Klein) -- until she discovers that he has two, bi-racial children (cute kids -- played by Christian Camporin and Neha Lyer) from an island native, and recalls her Southern upbringing. Lt. Joe Cable (Jason Evans) love for a native girl, is similarly stunted because his strict, white culture will also not accept a mixed marriage. Evans is a handsome, muscular guy with sexy mannerisms and a voice to match. His sweetheart, played by dainty, Kim Wong, pantomimed her part nicely but did not sing at all.
Klein is a good actor and has a rich, operatic voice. As De Becque, he certainly mesmerizes the audience in “Some Enchanted Evening” and “This Nearly Was Mine.” His co star Borellie’s performance was slightly uneven. She can act tenderly and has a very pleasant voice that compliments Klein’s, however, her overall posture and dance movements need more definition and forcefulness. Nevertheless, many people in the audience thoroughly enjoyed her performance and could not refrain from shaking their heads and clapping in time to the number “Honey Bun.” The nurses, sailors and island girls were fine and the choreography by Doug Shankman was appropriate and enjoyable.
Plays to July 13 -- Free parking -- Inquire about gourmet picnic delivery - 203-966-4634
“Grease,” directed by Melody Libonati (she appeared the original B’way production) follows on July 20 -- August 11
This review appears in “On CT & NY Theatre” July/2013