TAKE AN ISLAND VACATION TO THE “SOUTH PACIFIC”


BONNIE GOLDBERG

Warm tropical breezes blow, fluttering coconut palm fronds and rustling the coral beaded sands of the South Pacific. Into the idyllic scene come stealing the evidences of conflict as the shadows of World War II invade the island's peacefulness. In this enchanted setting, the French planter Emile de Becque sets his sights on a young, naive Navy Ensign Nellie Forbush one enchanted evening and love blooms like a fragile frangipani flower.

For lessons in how to make “happy talk” or when to wash annoying nuisances like men out of your hair, look no further than Ivoryton Playhouse’s stirring production of “South Pacific” until Sunday, July 26. This glorious musical world has been adapted from a series of prize winning short stories by James Michener.

Sixty five years ago “South Pacific,” that musical gem by Rodgers and Hammerstein, enjoyed its world premiere at New Haven’s Shubert Theatre. The songs, like a chain of jeweled islands, sparkle in the tropical sun: “Some Enchanted Evening,” “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair,” “Bloody Mary,” “There Is Nothing Like a Dame,” “Younger Than Springtime,” and “This Nearly Was Mine.”

David Pittsinger is charismatic with a French flair as the mature plantation owner Emile de Becque who falls for the eternally optimistic and much younger Navy nurse from Little Rock, Arkansas, Nellie Forbush. Their lives are complicated by World War II and his past, the racial prejudices of the time, and the differences in their backgrounds.

Adrianne Hick is a bubbly, energized and thoroughly adorable Nellie, ready to leap lagoons for love. After a whirlwind courtship, the two encounter a crisis in belief systems and Emile volunteers for a dangerous mission with Lt. Joe Cable (Peter Carrier) to spy on the Japanese. Some of the show’s lighter moments center on the enterprising and eccentric super saleswoman Bloody Mary (Patricia Schuman, who is married to David Pittsinger) who bargains with the cee bees over everything from grass skirts to shrunken heads to her daughter Liat (Annelise Cepero), while Luther Billis (William Selby) as head of his unit maneuvers and manipulates events and people for his own purposes, often with startling results. R. Bruce Connelly and Tom Libonate play the military officers who coordinate the war effort.

For tickets ($42, seniors $37, students $20, children $15) call the Ivoryton Playhouse, 103 Main Street, Ivoryton at 860-767-7318 and online at www.ivorytonplayhouse.org. Performances are to Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., and 2 p.m matinees Wednesday and Sunday. David Edwards directs and choreographs this classic favorite, with stunning sunset lighting effects by Marcus Abbott.

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CONNECTICUT CRITICS CIRCLE