Review: SOUTH PACIFIC at Fulton Theatre

Docked at the Fulton through May 19.

By: Apr. 28, 2024
Review: SOUTH PACIFIC at Fulton Theatre
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Revisiting a show that you haven’t seen for years (or even decades), often provides a very different experience than what is expected.  Such was the case when I recently saw Fulton Theatre’s production of South Pacific. For example, I was concerned that the character of “Bloody Mary” might be seen as a walking stereotype.  After all she speaks in broken English, and spends most of the show trying to sell grass skirts, shrunken heads, and her offspring to the Marines.  However, as portrayed by Lydia Gaston, Mary is fresh, funny, smart, and absolutely charming.  She was a breath of fresh air and owned the stage upon every entrance.

Conversely, I expected to identify with the journey of Nellie Forbush as portrayed by Carolyn Anne Miller.  However, I don’t know how much she connects with a twenty-first-century audience.  Miller’s excessively southern belle seems absolutely disgusted upon learning that her new boyfriend, Emil de Becque has small children that are, in Nellie’s words (gasp!) “colored”.  I assume that type of language and reaction would be seen as a red flag, if not a deal breaker, by a contemporary audience.

De Becque is played by William Michals, who possesses the deep, rich baritone voice that makes iconic songs like “Some Enchanted Evening” soar.  However, one of the other aspects of the show that I forgot about was how often these songs keep popping up.  The referenced tune was sung, then later had both a reprise and an encore. Snippets of it were also played a couple of additional times beyond what was mentioned in the playbill. While Rogers and Hammerstein have a winning horse, sometimes I think they are guilty of beating the life out of it.

Jake Goz was fine as Lieutenant Cable.  His rendition of “Younger than Springtime” was warm and heartfelt.  Todd Lawson has some good moments as conman Luther Billis, but really wasn’t getting all of the laughs that this character deserves.

The set over-relies on rear projection.  While the beautiful colors and lush backdrops were pretty to look at, they are only two dimensional. Additional set pieces beyond a long platform across the length of the stage would add more authenticity to the production. 

The show was co-directed by Marc Robin and Curt Dale Clark.  Choices seem to favor sticking close to the source material and traditional expectations for the show.  Marc Robin is also credited as choreographer, but the dancing in this production is minimal.

To be clear, I don’t think that South Pacific or even the shows of Rogers and Hammerstein are especially dated or irrelevant.  A few years back, Fulton put on The Sound of Music to great appreciation and acclaim.  I wish they were able to capture some of that magic this time around.




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