BWW Reviews: SOUTH PACIFIC Debuts in Cincinnati


Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific is currently making its Cincinnati debut and it is a great revival of a classical musical.

Set on a tropical island during World War II, South Pacific tells the romantic tale of a US Navy nurse, Nellie, played beautifully by Carmen Cusack, and Emile, a wealthy, French plantation owner, portrayed by Jason Howard. The two characters are an odd pairing -- Nellie, a naïve young woman from Little Rock, Arkansas and Emile, a French man who ran away to the island after a mysterious event in France and harbors a secret. They realize their quick love affair may be more difficult then they imagined when Nellie's racial prejudices cause problems after she learns Emile was married and had children with a native Pacific Islander.

In addition to Nellie and Emile's story, the audience also witnesses another love story unfold between a young pilot Lt. Joseph Cable (Anderson Davis) and Liat (Sumie Maeda), a Tonkinese girl. Again, racial undertones make for a not-so-happy story when Cable leaves Liat for a secret mission to spy on the Japanese.

Comical whimsy from the SeaBees serves to lighten the show. The entire cast is rich and superb in this production. And the full, 26-piece orchestra (the largest of any touring production) is a spectacular treat that brings the show to another level.

Broadway musicals are a diverse collection of masterpieces and people often become divided between the good ole days of musicals past, richly orchestrated show like South Pacific, and more contemporary shows, like the next show in Cincinnati's Broadway Across America season, Rock of Ages. But the pleasant thing about such diversity is that there's something for everyone. I wasn't deeply moved by South Pacific (and likely won't be by Rock of Ages either), but it's a unique experience to see a classic show performed by a talented cast and backed by such a full orchestra sound. The sound, in addition to a great cast, transforms you back to 1949 when the musical first premiered.

South Pacific will play The Aronoff Center from September 21- October 3, 2010. Tickets start at $22.50 and may be purchased online at, in person at the Broadway Across America Box Office downtown in the Mercantile Center and the Aronoff Center Box Office or by phone at 1-800-982-2787.

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