South Pacific opened at the Grand Rapids Civic Theater last Friday night, complete with a standing ovation. From the cast and their songs to the set and costumes, this production is first class.
A palm tree-framed stage lures you into the scenes where United States soldiers and nurses are stationed in the South Pacific during World War II. Some soldiers are girl crazy and others are in love with only one girl.
The story line follows Nellie Forbush and Lieutenant Joseph Cable. Nellie is a nurse who has fallen in love with a local, wealthy plantation owner. Her love burns strong until she finds out that he had a previous relationship with a local woman. Lt. Cable also finds himself falling for a local girl, but will not allow himself to marry her. Both Nellie and Lt. Cable discuss, confront and eventually make life decisions based on the prejudices they were raised to believe.
Rodgers and Hammerstein’s play, South Pacific was based on James A. Michener’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Tales of the South Pacific. They believed that their musical adaptation could be financially successful and would also send a strong, open-minded message on the prejudices that were prevalent in the 1940s.
Civic Theater has uncovered a gem in first time actor Jose Alejandro Amoros. You will leave the theater wondering how this is his first production. His deep, melodic rendition of “Some Enchanted Evening” captivated the audience. Let’s hope that this is the first of many productions for Mr. Amoros.
Jessica Doyle shined as Arkansas nurse, Nellie Forbush. Her portrayal of the sweet southern nurse showed range as Nellie wrestled with her upbringing and following her heart. She and the nurse ensemble performed “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair” while dressed in gingham and polka-dot bathing suits from the time period.
Bloody Mary, played by Eva Switek, had the audience laughing throughout the play. Her wild antics and sales tactics sold grass skirts and shrunken heads. But when Bloody Mary sang “Bali Ha’i”, her real talent was revealed. This softer side of Mary made you want to know what was so magical about Bali Ha’i.
Casey Johnson plays Lieutenant Joseph Cable who falls in love with Bloody Mary’s daughter Liat. Like Nellie Forbush, Lt. Cable is confused by what he learned as a child and how he feels for Liat. “You’ve Got to be Carefully Taught” perfectly sums up the reasons for his confusion.
Luther Billis, the girl-crazy Carpenter’s Mate, was played by Andrew Schneider. Billis livens up every scene especially during the Thanksgiving Follies when he dressed up as a woman and performed “Honey Bun” with Nellie.
South Pacific shows February 27 through March 22. An amazing cast will take you to the other side of the world and back in time to World War II. Show times are 7:30 PM, Wednesday through Saturday with a 2 PM matinee performance on Sunday.