by DICK KEREKES
Your opportunity to take a trip to the South Pacific awaits you on the stage of the Times Union Center in Jacksonville. Rogers and Hammerstein’s musical “South Pacific” is one of the most successful, most popular and most acclaimed musicals in the history of musical theatre. Based on James A. Michener’s “Tales of the South Pacific” it debuted in l949 and won the Pulitzer Prize and 10 Tony Awards. The 2008 Broadway revival garnered rave reviews and won 8 Tony Awards. It will run through Sunday Oct 16, at 7:30 PM.
The story takes place on a South Pacific island in l943 when a handsome middle-aged French planter, Emile de Becque (Marcel Guzzo) , who becomes a war hero falls in love with an American Navy nurse Ensign Nellie Forbush (Katie Reid). A subplot concerns another love affair between Lt. Joseph Cable (Shane Donovan) and the very young daughter of Polynesian entrepreneur Blood Mary (Cathy Foy-Mahi). Racial intolerance plagues both love affairs.
There is a lot of nostalgic fun, in the form of the sailors as they are lead by the hilarious Luther Billis (Christian Marriner) as they sing and dance to “There nothing like a Dame.” There are all those other time honored classic songs that include, “Younger than Springtime,” “Bali Hai,” “Gonna Wash that Man Right outa my Hair” and “Some Enchanted Evening.” This production features outstanding voices from top to bottom, and especially as the leads, Mr. Guzzo and Ms. Reid were outstanding.
The sets were lavish, from the Frenchman’s wonderful island home, to the excellent and colorful back drop that displayed the volcanic island of Bali Hai in the distance.
The costumes featured the expected military uniforms, and lovely ladies in gowns and bathing suits (l940’s style). I was especially impressed with the costumes worn by the Navy nurses in the special Thanksgiving show. Four ladies dressed as turkeys with the costumes made out of rolled up Life Magazines. Very unique indeed.
As I was leaving the theatre after a thoroughly entertaining evening, I asked myself was this version of “South Pacific” any different than any of the many that I have seen over the years at the Alhambra, Orange Park, and Theatre Jacksonville? (the one’s I can immediately recall)
First the sound was excellent and every word and song could be heard loud and clear. Secondly, in the past it seemed that the requirement for the role of Bloody Mary was someone a size the between a linebacker and a sumo wrestler, but Ms.Foy-Mahi’s “Mary” was very shipshape and agile.
Toward the end of the show, there is a reprise of the song “Honey Bun” using the combat dressed military doing a slow marching step to the music. Yes, a very moving scene.
Judging from the opening night’s audience applause, they loved it and you will too so don’t miss this true theatre classic “South Pacific”. Visit and order tickets on www.artistseriesjax.org or call 904-632-3373.
by DICK KEREKES