Review: Falling in Love Eight Times a Week: William Michals & Carolyn Anne Miller Preview MSMT's SOUTH PACIFIC

MSMT Season Begins June 5 with Rodgers & Hammerstein Revival

By: May. 20, 2024
Review: Falling in Love Eight Times a Week: William Michals & Carolyn Anne Miller Preview MSMT's SOUTH PACIFIC
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“SOUTH PACIFIC is a masterpiece, and the role of Emile de Becque is an important one.  He is a man who hates war, has found his slice of peace, and is willing to fight for love.  It is such a joy to play the part and be able to fall in love eight times a week.” 

Baritone William Michals is sharing his thoughts about MSMT and Fulton Theatres’ new co-production of SOUTH PACIFIC which opens MSMT’s 65th season on June 6, 2024 (Previews June 5).  His enthusiasm for the project is shared by his co-star, Carolyn Anne Miller, who plays Ensign Nellie Forbush. “I have fond memories of the show from the records my grandmother, who was an actor, used to play.  I knew all the songs by heart, and it is a thrill to play the role for the first time.”

Review: Falling in Love Eight Times a Week: William Michals & Carolyn Anne Miller Preview MSMT's SOUTH PACIFIC While this is a role debut for Miller at a theatre “I have come to call home,” Michals has played de Becque many times before, most notably in the 2010 Bartlett Sher revival at Lincoln Center.  He remembers vividly the “spine tingling excitement of the production in moments such as those when the orchestra is revealed beneath the thrust stage halfway through the overture. “It’s astounding how 75 years later, the message of the ugliness of racism that Rodgers and Hammerstein fought to present is still relevant.  We are still mired in so much hatred and bullying. Rodgers and Hammerstein were as commercially savvy as they were great artists. They had important messages to get across, and they fought for them.”

“The show speaks to the prejudice we still see in our world and helps us learn how to navigate and change that,” adds Miller.

Michals, who makes his debut at the Fulton and MSMT, has enjoyed a storied career in musical theatre, concert, and opera.  Raised in Cranford and Spring Lake, New Jersey, in a family with music in its blood, his uncle, Raymond Michalski was a leading basso at the Metropolitan Opera in the 1960s-1970s, and  Michals remembers “singing for the joy of singing around the family piano.”  He majored in international relations at Boston University while also studying voice with Phyllis Curtain, legendary soprano and Dean of the Arts, as well as with Louis Quilico and Andy Anselmo.  In 1992 he auditioned for the Papermill Playhouse and was cast as the Beast in BEAUTY AND THE BEAST.  He went on to play the role on Broadway, along with notable other performances in PARADE and BRIGHT STAR, as well as a long list of regional credits including favorites like MAN OF LA MANCHA.

Miller returns to MSMT after a full 2023 summer playing roles as different as Kate Murphy in TITANIC, Doralee in 9 to 5 THE MUSICAL, and Portia in SOMETHING ROTTEN.  Recent years have seen her as Dorothy in MSMT’s WIZARD of OZ, Wendy in the Fulton’s Peter Pan and Eponine in LES MISERABLES at Music Theatre Wichita. Her versatility is one of her defining traits as an actress – a quality she explains by saying, “I always try my best to bring reality to a role and honesty to a part.”

Michals talks about how each time he performs the role of Emile de Becque he learns “more about the character and about himself as an actor.  Emile says he believes in the free life.  He means that not just politically, but personally as well. In the novel he has three wives and many children and he makes no apologies.  He believes the freedom to love is a right.  Emile strives to make ethical decisions.  You don’t hear him refer to religion, but rather to literature and philosophy – Proust, Gide.  He is a man who is ahead of his time.”

Review: Falling in Love Eight Times a Week: William Michals & Carolyn Anne Miller Preview MSMT's SOUTH PACIFIC Miller believes, “The two main themes of the show are prejudice and love set against the background of war.” She notes the lovely bond between Nellie and Emile.  “He helps her navigate things she’s never done before, like living on an island and learning about new people.  Finding new things about other people can be a beautiful and exciting thing.”

In preparing for his role, Michals says he is indebted to James Michener’s Pulitzer Prize winning Tales of the South Pacific in helping shape his portrayal of Emile de Becque, while Miller says, “I didn’t use the book, and I didn’t watch the movie. When I do a new show, I am fearful of being influenced in my characterization.  I will read and watch when we’re done.”

Miller and Michals both are enthusiastic about this new co-production.  “Marc [Robin} and Curt Dale [Clark] are remarkable actors, directors, producers, and Curt’s input is especially meaningful since he was a legendary Cable and has so much history with the show,” says Michals. “They have created a tasteful, gorgeous, lush production that doesn’t overshadow the story.  The video components do not diminish the live performance.  Rather they strike a perfect balance between beautiful scenery and the spirit of the actors on stage. It makes for absolutely electric love theatre.”

Miller concurs: “Marc and Curt have done a really good job of presenting what lots of folks expect to see with a beautifully modern production aspect.  They have done a really lovely job of incorporating the video wall and panels, as well as adding an element of modern psychology to the piece.”  She also praises the way Robin has created little nuanced dance moments in a show that is basically “a play with music,” and she cites the vibrant score filled with hits.

The two colleagues also wax eloquent about working together. Miller says it has been “truly lovely working with William,” while Michals says Miller conveys “every nuance of a young, ebullient, effervescent character who also has wisdom.”

Both Michals and Miller are looking forward to bringing this production of SOUTH PACIFIC to Brunswick audiences. Miller hopes that for audiences familiar with the show, “they will open their hearts and minds and receive the music they are expecting and even if they have seen the show before, they will leave having learned something new, perhaps have a change of mind or have experienced a little slice of life.”

Michals reinforces that thought: “I would love the audience to come away with a renewed energy not only to eradicate racism, but also to spread love and acceptance so that we do not bring ourselves into deadly, nightmarish conflict once again.  Emile says ‘the world stood by and watched while bullies multiplied and grew strong…’ I would hope that Maine audiences will be inspired not to let bullies do their dirty work.”


Photos courtesy of MSMT

SOUTH PACIFIC runs from June 5-June 22, 2024 at MSMT’s Pickard Theater on the Bowdoin College campus  207-725-8769

Review: Falling in Love Eight Times a Week: William Michals & Carolyn Anne Miller Preview MSMT's SOUTH PACIFIC NEWS FLASH:  William Michals in Concert- A Special PerformanceIn this interview, William Michals shares with BWW the news that MSMT audiences are in for a special treat to close the SOUTH PACIFIC run: he will be performing a special concert on the evening of June 22 at the Orion Arts Center in Topsham in which he gets “to wrap my baritone around great songs” from the American musical canon.  And he adds that he “will be inviting SOUTH PACIFIC cast members to share the stage with him to add variety and interplay in an evening of great Broadway music." DETAILS to come.


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