First performed on Broadway in 1949, the book of this significant musical weaves together a variety of characters and elements from James A. Michener's Pulitzer Prize-winning work, Tales of the South Pacific. Here, French expatriate plantation owner, Emile de Becque, woos Nurse Nellie Forbush. When Nellie discovers Emile’s late wife was “colored” (Polynesian), her racial prejudice causes her to break off the relationship. Echoing this story is the situation in which Marine Lt. Joseph Cable also rejects marrying a young Tonkinese girl—daughter of island entrepreneur Bloody Mary—because of her race. In the background, Navy sailors, officers, seabees, marines, and female nurses abound. A soaring score by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II includes standards such as “Some Enchanted Evening,” “Nothin’ Like a Dame,” “Cockeyed Optimist,” and Bali Ha’i.”
In the hands of Director Ashley Roseboro (also Vocal Director) as assisted by Wendy Lindsay, and Musical Director Michael Blackwood, I found the production to be generally pleasing, but a slightly mixed success.
Among those aspects of the production I felt were a little off the night I was there were the pacing seemed generally s l o w and energy low, some in the cast seemed awkward (“Hey, Mom, look at me… I’m ACTING!”), and, not all the actors really seemed to take ownership of their parts.
Margaret Borgmeyer as Nellie had a beautiful soprano, but her subdued portrayal needed more animation, presence, and volume to be properly “bromidic and bright.” Bruce Jake Roberts, however, had no problem in taking focus and belting out his portrayal of Emile de Becque. Evan Fornachon had a sweet tenor he used to good advantage as Lt. Cable. Sue Buydos as Bloody Mary was properly brassy. The only person, however, to take his part in his teeth, chew it up, and spit it out, was Mark Zoole as Luther Billis; when he was on you didn’t pay attention to anyone else, and the general energy levels of scenes shot up. Navy officers (George Lewandowski, Rick Spilker) were appropriately war-weary, and some nice gymnastic dancing was included. In all, the enthusiasm of the large, of-all-ages cast made for an enjoyable show.
Technically, the set (Stephanie Draper) was very functional and effective as a variety of venues, but I missed seeing the mysterious presence of the island of Bali Ha’i visible on the horizon to help set the scene. A dune of sand without even a palm tree can only go so far. Stephanie’s lighting also worked nicely. Costumes (Barbara Langa) were a perfect complement, especially the uniforms. Monette Dennis was Choreographer, with Sound Design by J.D. Wade. The rather large orchestra, under Conductor Michael Blackwood, was generally excellent accompaniment; only a very few times so loud the actors couldn’t easily be heard.
South Pacific runs approx. 3 hours with one 20-minute intermission. It continues in the Florissant Civic Center Theatre on Parker Road through Sunday, October 9, 2011. For more information visit http://www.alphaplayers.org/.