BWW Reviews: SOUTH PACIFIC at Westchester Broadway Theatre
South Pacific at Westchester Broadway Theatre
Westchester Broadway Theatre dusted off the original version of Rogers & Hammerstein's South Pacific. The show is based on the Pulitzer Prize- winning book "Tales of the South Pacific" by James A. Michener. This is not a revival of the production done a few years ago at Lincoln Center Theater.
It was interesting to see a minimally staged and designed show that usually demands huge musical numbers. I prepared myself to suspend my disbelief.
The story is about American sailors and the Navy Nurses stationed in the South Pacific during World War II. Little Rock, Arkansas native Nellie Forbush meets and falls in love with French Ex-Patriate and murderer Emile de Becque, who is now a plantation owner. Nellie struggles with her racist upbringing and learns to love and accept de Becque's native children after he helps U.S. forces gain an edge in the war. Meanwhile, Lt. Joe Cable, new to the islands falls sway to the allure of Bali Hai and falls in love with Liat, the daughter of Bloody Mary, the local merchandiser.
Rodgers and Hammerstein's score is always a treat, so numbers like "There is Nothing Like a Dame," "Some Enchanted Evening," "Younger Than Springtime" and "I'm Gonna Wash that Man Right out of My Hair" were songs I could not wait to hear again!
This script's version is dated and plays flat in long stretches - like when Cable and De Becque are behind enemy lines. Worse, the romance between De Becque and Nellie starts with a song, unconvincingly meanders around Nellie's ambivalence, and returns to true love via his heroism and her caring for his kids. With strong acting, lush musicianship, and pathos - it plays well. Westcheter Broadway finds better luck with the group numbers like "Bali Hai", "There is Nothing like a Dame" and "Wash that Man." Even better, supporting players like Bloody Mary and Luther Billis keep the action lively and entrancing. Haley Swindal as Nelly Forbush and George Dvorsky as Emile de Becque had some nice moments, growing more compelling and stronger in the second act. "This nearly was mine" in the second act was a particularly poignant and well sung moment.
Bill E. Dietrich as Luther Billis and Joanne Javien as Bloody Mary were the highlights of the production. I was intrigued with their sub plots more than the main characters, which was due to the lack of spark between the two love stories.
All and all, it was a noble effort. The production, directed by Charles has the actors meandering across the stage awkwardly to fill the contours of the Westchester dinner theater so everyone can see. Staging is very strong in group numbers. Michael Litchfefeld choreographed a great number with "Honey Bun" and the Musical Direction by Leo Carusone was effortless. The production, like the chicken, leaves one cold and wishing for a warmer, more engaging evening in the theater. Definitely order the chocolate peanut butter cake - like the group numbers - it goes down smoothly and quickly.