Category Archive for: ‘Judy Richter’

‘South Pacific’ comes to Los Altos Hills

Many reasons explain why “South Pacific” is so enduring in American musical theater annals.

Composer Richard Rodgers and lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II created such memorable songs as “Some Enchanted Evening,” “There Is Nothi”ng Like a Dame,” “Younger Than Springtime,” “Bali Ha’i” and many, many more.

Hammerstein and Joshua Logan based the 1949 Broadway hit’s book on James A. Michener’s “Tales of the South Pacific,” published in 1947. Now Foothill Music Theatre is just the latest company to stage this beloved show. Carefully directed by Milissa Carey, it features outstanding singing along with some good acting.

Set on a Navy outpost in the South Pacific during World War II, “South Pacific” tells the story of the budding romance between a young Navy nurse, Ensign Nellie Forbush (Madison Genovese), and a middle-aged French planter, Emile de Becque (Daniel Cameron), who lives on the island.

There’s a parallel romance between Marine Lt. Joseph Cable (Sergey Khalikulov) and Liat (Amanda Nguyen), daughter of Bloody Mary (Jacqueline De Muro), an entrepreneurial native woman who sells souvenirs like grass skirts and shrunken human heads to the sailors.

Racist attitudes from their upbringings — Nellie’s in Little Rock, Ark., and Cable’s along Philadelphia’s Main Line– interfere with both romances. In Nellie’s case, the problem is that Emile was married to a Polynesian woman, now deceased. Nellie does like Emile’s two children from that union. Cable knows that his social set wouldn’t accept a Polynesian woman as his wife.

Both Cameron as Emile and Khalikulov as Cable are outstanding singers, but their acting can be stiff. On the other hand, Genovese as Nellie and De Muro as the bawdy Bloody Mary both act and sing well. Genovese tended to switch from classical to pop style in her first song, “A Cockeyed Optimist,” on opening night, but she settled into an appropriate legit style thereafter.

Supporting roles are ably filled by Steve Boisvert as Luther Billis, an irrepressibly enterprising sailor; Doug Brees as Cmdr. William Harbison and Vic Prosak as Capt. George Brackett, the base’s leaders.

The men’s and women’s chorus of nurses, Seabees and sailors do well as singers and dancers (choreography by Michael Ryken).

The energy level seemed low on opening night, perhaps because of how scorchingly hot it was during the day (the theater is air conditioned, though). Another reason might be that musical director Mark Hanson’s tempos seemed too careful. A faster pace might have helped.

Kuo-Hao Lo’s set is simple yet effective, especially with Michael Ramsaur’s lighting.

“South Pacific” won 10 Tony Awards and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. It’s easy to see why in this FMT production.

It will continue through Aug. 10 in Smithwick Theatre, Foothill College, 12345 El Monte Road, Los Altos Hills. For tickets and information, call (650) 949-7360 or visit www.foothillmusicals.com.

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