Photo Flash: First Look at Rubicon Theatre Company's SOUTH PACIFIC
Rubicon Theatre's 20th Anniversary Season culminates with a two-piano version of Rodgers and Hammerstein's soaring epic South Pacific, helmed by award-winning director KATHARINE FARMER and featuring a cast of 28 led by Tony honoree Ben Davis (Baz Luhrmann's La Bohème) and Madison Claire Parks (Luisa in The Fantasticks Off-Broadway).
Based on James Michener's Pulitzer Prize-winning masterpiece "Tales of the South Pacific," the musical is set on an exotic island during World War II. The plot follows two love stories about seeming-opposites brought together by the circumstances of war and torn apart by prejudice and fear. In the core story, Nellie Forbush (Parks), a naïve American nurse from a small town, falls in love with Emile de Becque (Davis), a sophisticated French plantation owner with a mysterious past. In the second, Joe Cable, a Marine Lieutenant from Philadelphia finds himself drawn to Liat, a young native girl.
The timeless score includes beautiful ballads such as "Younger the Springtime" and "Some Enchanted Evening," exuberant up-tempo songs like "I'm in Love with a Wonderful Guy," comic character numbers like "There Is Nothing Like a Dame," and driving anthems like the ever-timely "You've Got to Be Carefully Taught." Ovation Award-winner Brent Crayon serves as Musical Director and First Keyboard Player, and Lee Martino (multiple Ovation and L.A. Drama Critics Circle Awards) is CHOREOGRAPHER.
South Pacific premiered on Broadway in 1949 and became the second-longest running Broadway musical after Oklahoma!. winning eight Tony Awards (Best Musical, Best Libretto and Best Score, and Tony Awards in all four acting categories). In 1950, South Pacific received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and for the first time the committee included a composer (Richard Rodgers) in the drama prize. The Broadway Lincoln Center revival in 2008 won seven Tony Awards.
According to Producing Artistic Director Karyl Lynn Burns, Rubicon's production of South Pacific will be approached as a play with music, much like Rubicon's prior productions of Fiddler on the Roof, My Fair Lady and Man of La Mancha. "As a regional theatre company in a small venue, we hope to offer audiences an especially intimate, in-depth connection to the storytelling and the relationships."
"While embracing the romance and humor of this great classic," says Director Farmer, "we are also working to create a more gritty world and convey the various facets of life for these characters during the Pacific campaign: the sense of purpose, the adventure, the tedium, the anxiety - all of it. Even the heat is a factor. These are real people spending long days in a tropical climate with the possibility of eminent attack."
Farmer and MIKE BILLINGS (Sets, Lights and Multimedia) conceived a set made up of military issue pieces that the ensemble will move to create various locales. "The idea is that we as American military in wartime are trying to maneuver and manage what happens on this little island in a culture that has different values than our own," says Farmer. "The action gives us the illusion of having some control. But there are larger forces at work - God, the beauty and majesty and cruelty of nature, our own complex human natures, our penchant for conflict and war, our capacity for understanding and forgiveness, etc. Some of this will be suggested in mood and metaphor on a larger projection surface behind the set."
Costume Designer Pamela Shaw, Sound Designer Jonathan Burke and Prop Designer T. THERESA SCARANO are also on the creative team, along with Associate Musical Director/Second Keyboard Player JEN OKIAWA, Production Stage Manager Jeffry George and Associate Producer/Casting Director Beverly Ward.
"The cast members of this South Pacific are also a part of what we believe will make this show different," says Burns. "Katharine and the team have found artists with gorgeous voices who are also extraordinary actors intent on mining the rich human truths of their characters," continues Burns.
Burns cites as an example Jodi Kimura, who was nominated for a Helen Hayes Award in D.C. for her portrayal of Bloody Mary and was the only American in the London Lincoln Center cast. "Jodi is a facile and versatile actor and brought a more dark, desperate quality to the character than one often sees. It felt very right. You believe that this Bloody Mary is a woman who would sell her daughter to save her daughter."
"Katharine also cast actors who may be younger than is typical in the roles of Cable and Liat, Alex Nee (National Tours of Once and American Idiot) and actress/writer JAMIE YUN ("Ghosted"). Both of them have a charismatic, winsome, even slightly contemporary quality that makes them very relatable. Katharine's feeling is that it is often the young and innocent who are the victims of war. These two actors will break our hearts," says Burns.
Other cast members include Olivier Nominee and Helen Hayes Award-winner Kirby Ward as Luther Billis (Crazy for You in London), ANDREW UMBERGER as Captain Brackett (City of Angels and Passion on Broadway), company member Joseph Fuqua as LT. HARBISON (Rubicon's Hamlet/My Fair Lady), and Marc Ginsburg (5-Star's Shrek) as Stewpot.
"This production of South Pacific is also dear to us because it is a Rubicon family production in many respects," says Burns. "Some ensemble members and our Assistant Stage Manager (ASM) grew up as a part of Rubicon's education programs. Others are locals who worked with us as young people, completed training programs elsewhere and are now at an age where they have embarked on professional careers. It has been our dream to build a theatre that will eventually be run by and patronized by the artists that grew up here. It is a joy to have them home for South Pacific during the holidays."
Returning Rubicon alums include Lilli Babb of Thousand Oaks (Hello My Baby/A Christmas Carol) and Claire Burgi of Ventura (Bye, Bye Birdie), both now of New York City; NATALIE GRAHAM of Santa Paula (West Side Story - also Associate Choreographer for South Pacific); ZACHARY MACIAS of Carpinteria (King Lear), now a resident of North Hollywood; JOSH RANCK of Ventura (The Drowsy Chaperone); TOBY TROPPER of Ventura (Noises Off/A Christmas Carol) and SAMANTHA WINTERS of Ventura (Merrily We Roll Along/King Lear). MADELEINE WILSON of Oxnard (Hamlet/Return to the Forbidden Planet) is working on her first Equity contract as ASM on the show.
IAN NUNNEY of Ojai and ISABELLA DE LOS SANTOS of Ventura who have been a part of Rubicon's summer youth intensives play Jerome and Ngana, respectively.
Other local artists in the production include KEVIN GILMOND of Agoura Hills (Shrek at 5-Star Theatricals) and NIKKO ARCE of Oxnard (Amélie at Out of the Box Theatre Company) as Henry.
The ensemble of Nurses and Seabees also includes the talents of DANI BUSH, Bailey Blaise, BRETT CALO, ETHAN DANIEL CORBETT, SAMANTHA CORBETT, IAN JAMES, MARISSA MAYER and WHITNEY NOELLE.
Rubicon Theatre's production of South Pacific runs Dec. 5 through 23 at the company's home in Ventura's Downtown Cultural District, located at 1006 E. Main Street (the corner of Main and Laurel). The show begins with low-priced previews Wed., Dec. 5 at 7:00 p.m., Thurs., Dec. 6 at 7:00 p.m. and Fri. Dec. 7 at 8:00 p.m. The gala opening is Sat., Dec. 8 at 7:00 p.m., and is followed by a party with the cast and local dignitaries at ALOHA STEAKHOUSE (island attire suggested). Performances continue Wednesdays at 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m., Thursdays at 7:00 p.m., Fridays at 8:00 p.m., Saturdays and 2 and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. Talkbacks, where audience members are invited to participate in a facilitated discussion with the actors, are scheduled following the Wednesday performances (except the first preview). For tickets, go to www.rubicontheatre.org or call 805.667.2900.
Photo Credit: Jeanne Tanner
Madison Claire Parks and company
Kirby Ward and company
Jamie Yun and Alex Nee