Interview: Paul Hope Returns Home to Theatre Under the Stars for an Iconic Production of SOUTH PACIFIC

BWW Interview: Paul Hope Returns Home to Theatre Under the Stars for an Iconic Production of SOUTH PACIFIC

By: Feb. 07, 2022
Interview: Paul Hope Returns Home to Theatre Under the Stars for an Iconic Production of SOUTH PACIFIC
Paul Hope plays Captain Brackett
in TUTS Production of South Pacific

Theatre Under The Stars has a storied history in the Houston theatre scene. One of the cornerstones of their theatre community is long-time actor Paul Hope. Hope has the distinction of performing professionally for several decades, in more than 40 productions at Theatre Under the Stars alone. His membership in to the Actors Equity Union begun with the 1980 production of Rodger's and Hammerstein's classic, SOUTH PACIFIC.

Now with performances beginning at TUTS for this classic musical, Hope returns once again to this masterpiece to play naval officer, Capt. Brackett.

Tell me about your experience doing South Pacific with TUTS? I heard that is where you got your Equity card.

That was the show that TUTS offered many local actors doing the principal roles their equity card. Local people were usually non-union actors. Every chorus member was allowed to become a part of the union, and many people took that opportunity. I played The Professor, a role played by Christopher Tipps now. We were doing the iconic Frank Young version of South Pacific, which meant there was a waterfall on stage. Frank was the director, and as you probably know, was the founder of Theater Under The Stars. Part of the orchestra pit was flooded so there could be divers, and we did the Boarstooth ceremony, which is only alluded to in the show. Our stars for that production were Jane Powell as Ensign Nellie Forbush, MGM Musical Star of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, and our Emile de Becque was Met Opera star, Giorgio Tozzi. Tozzi was the singing voice for Emile in the film.

I got Tozzi to sign my opera recordings, and I was star-struck because it was one of the first times I had ever worked with stars. I had a poster of when Jane did Irene, her only Broadway show, and I was ecstatic for her to sign it. That production was a lot of fun, and it is great coming back to the show. I have not done many Rodgers & Hammerstein shows, or I should say, as omnipresent as they are. I have never gotten to do Oklahoma or the King and I. I was in Carousel for HGO six years ago, and I have done Max in the Sound of Music three times. There used to be an outdoor music hall in Galveston, and they would always repeat whatever the new shows had been each year. I worked for them the last years of them doing it. I usually don't get to do roles like Captain Brackett; my specialty, especially at the Alley, was playing sophisticated British people. Playing a navy commander in WWII is different for me. I got to play a role at the Alley, who was the boss, who is very much the base for Captain Brackett. A leader or boss among these naval men.

Are there any differences with this production versus when you did it with Theatre Under the Stars back in 1980?

This production has more dancing. SOUTH PACIFIC is traditionally a show that does not have choreographed dance, and the original production did not have a choreographer. The original director believed that dances need to look as if it has been made up as if no one had a dance lesson. Our production teams takes the opposite approach and ask, "Why not?" They have also staged the overture for our gorgeous Liat to have a dance moment and be the spirit of Bali Hai.

There is also a great sensitivity regarding this production. This production treats Bloody Mary and Liat with great dignity. South Pacific is a timely piece, mainly because it is about race prejudice. That is the overriding theme. So much of what is going on today is based on that, which makes it, unfortunately, timely.

Another difference between the 1980 production and now is that an opera singer typically plays Emile de Becque. Our Emile (James D. Sasser) has a gorgeous sound, and it is something that younger audiences will find it easier to accept. If he were to sing a Gershwin song, it wouldn't sound like an opera singer trying to sing pop music. I think it was wise to have an Emile who is not an opera singer because it will appeal to our younger audiences.

We are also using many students from the Humphreys School of Music to play the population onstage. I initially thought, "These kids are so young." Then I realized these kids would be about the age joining the military.

You've been in over 40 productions at Theatre Under the Stars! Can you tell me any of your favorites?

My first principal role was Motel the Tailor in Fiddler on the Roof. Most people would not look at me and think of me as a Motel, mainly because the role is usually played by someone shorter. I am 6'2," and I had the privilege of playing the role three times! Originally I auditioned for the role of Perchick, but the director saw me more as Motel. Also, I am more of a singer than a typical Motel because his song in the show is more of a "talk-sing" rather than carrying a tune. I remember a fellow cast member discussing with me his wonder as to why a tall gentleman was playing Motel. However, once he saw my performance in the role of Motel, who I played as hunched over from being in front of a sewing machine, he was convinced. That will always be one of my favorite productions I have ever done at TUTS.

The other was playing the evil concierge Rhona in TUTS production of Grand Hotel the Musical. We had done it out at the Arena in Sharpstown. It is a gorgeous piece and was a fantastic production. A favorite role was playing Fred Gaily in Meredith Wilson's Here's Love, his interpretation of the story Miracle on 34th Street. While it is not one of my favorite Meredith Wilson scores, the encouragement of playing the role in a comedic "Charles Nelson Reilly" way is one of my favorite memories.

What does it feel like being back at TUTS with your long history of performing in the Houston theatre scene?

Now that I am a Resident Acting Company Emeritus at the Alley, I can come back home to work at TUTS more often. I have had the pleasure of working in all three theatres that TUTS has been a part of over the years, and it sort of feels like coming home. While I can do both plays and musicals, my heart will always be tinkering for an excellent musical.

Catch Paul Hope in SOUTH PACIFIC now! The show runs from February 8th to February 20th at The Hobby Center in Houston. Tickets start at just $40, with no additional fees. Visit for tickets and more information. SOUTH PACIFIC is a full-length Broadway musical intended for ages 8+ and is not recommended for anyone under the age of 4.

COVID-19 Protocols:

All guests ages 12 and older will be required to show either proof of a negative COVID-19 test result or proof of vaccination, at the guest's discretion, and photo identification. Masks are required for all patrons and staff while inside the Hobby Center.



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