“SOUTH PACIFIC” SOARS INTO NEW CANAAN


BONNIE GOLDBERG

Picture swaying palm trees, soft island breezes, coral dotted sands, lush green mountains, bouquets of tropical blossoms and endless Pacific Ocean waves and you will be set to experience the enchanting production of "South Pacific" until Saturday, July 13, courtesy of Summer Theatre of New Canaan. This classic musical is a splendid way to spend a summer evening under the stars.

In 1949, three short stories of James Michener, taken from his Pulitzer prize-winning novel “Tales of the South Pacific,” were transformed into a musical called by many the finest ever composed for the stage. Two serious stories about couples whose love is threatened by the war and by their own prejudices were balanced by a third story about Luther Billis, a womanizing but lovable sailor, to provide comic relief.

The result was “South Pacific,” a royal treat by Rodgers and Hammerstein, with book by Hammerstein and Joshua Logan that has been revised and enhanced six decades later with its themes of racial prejudice strengthened and sensitized for today’s audiences.

The primary story swirls around a middle-aged French plantation owner Emile de Becque, brought to charming and romantic life by Daniel Klein, who meets a naive young United States Navy nurse from Arkansas, Nellie Forbush, an engagingly sweet Tiffan Borelli, at an officers’ club dance and they fall in love “one enchanted evening.” The second story involves United States Marine Lieutenant Joe Cable, a strong and committed Jason Michael Evans, who comes to the island to carry out a dangerous spy mission and becomes infatuated with Liat, a Tonkinese girl, played by a lovely Kim Wong. Both Nellie and Cable experience bigotry and suffer from deep-seated prejudices, feelings that are revealed in the telling song “You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught.”

Some of the other beautiful tunes that have come out of this production include “This Nearly Was Mine,” “Some Enchanted Evening,” “Bali Ha’i,” “Younger Than Springtime” and “I’m in Love with a Wonderful Guy,” as well as the light hearted “Happy Talk,” “Bloody Mary,” “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair,” “There is Nothing Like a Dame” and “Honey Bun.”

While the play deals with World War II and the conflict in the Pacific against the Japanese as well as the reactions in the United States, some of the production’s lighter moments are provided by Luther Billis as an entrepreneurial sort who finds himself in a new world and tries to make the best of it, even if it involves bending the rules. He epitomizes the great American ethic of inventiveness based on necessity, providing services to relieve his men’s boredom and loneliness. Believing in the greater good, Luther is ready and able to meet his sailors’ needs, be it for a laundry service, island trinkets or female companionship. Nick Reynolds brings this role to comic life.

Also outstanding in her part is Janelle Robinson as Bloody Mary, who like Luther is trying to earn a good living by being enterprising as well as finding a suitable husband for her daughter Liat. She focuses on Joe Cable as being the right man.

Christian Camporin and Dillon Mims share the role of Emile's son Jerome while Cristina I. Ferreira and Neha Lyer both play Ngana. Allegra Libonati directs a large and talented cast in this wonderful production.

For tickets ($37 and up), call Summer Theatre of New Canaan at 203-966-4634 or online at boxoffice@stonc.org. Performances are Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 4 p.m. at Waveny Park, 11 Farm Road, New Canaan at the high school entrance.

The summer schedule also includes "Grease," "The Little Mermaid," "The Cat in the Hat" and "Pinkalicious The Musical."

Start off your summer on a high note, beautifully sung, by attending a performance of "South Pacific," a universal favorite in the world of musical theater.

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