BWW Reviews: 'SOUTH PACIFIC' at the Huron Country Playhouse
I'm in love with a wonderful show...
Rodgers and Hammerstein's classic musical SOUTH PACIFIC (book by Hammerstein and Joshua Logan) is currently playing at Drayton Entertainment's Huron Country Playhouse in Grand Bend, Ontario, under the direction (and choreography) of Michael Litchefeld and it is an absolute delight!
A radiant and delightful Chilina Kennedy plays ensign Nellie Forbush, a cheerfully naïve navy nurse, based in the South Pacific during the Second World War. While there, she quickly falls for an enigmatic Frenchman-Emile de Becque, played by the incredibly talented Branch Fields. As a subplot, Lietenant Joseph Cable, (played by the charming Liam Tobin) falls for a young Tonkinese woman (played by Genevieve Sermonia). The future of both couples is threatened by prejudice, and the influence it has on both Nellie and Lieutenant Cable. Mr. Tobin's performance of the very smart "You've Got to be Carefully Taught" really drills home the commentary about prejudice that the writers clearly had in mind when they wrote this show back in 1949. The relationships are further threatened by military action that both de Becque and Cable become involved in. Despite these dramatic elements, this show is also full of light-hearted and comedic moments, as well as a beautiful score, featuring classic Rodgers and Hammerstein music such as "Some Enchanted Evening", I'm Gonna Wash that Man right out of my Hair", "Cockeyed Optimist", "Younger than Springtime", "Honey Bun", etc.
There has always been a fascinating dichotomy between the saccharine nature of some dialogue and lyrics in this show, and the biting commentary that also exists throughout. Similarly, the imagery of beautiful places such as de Becque's estate, and the island of Bali Ha'i are constantly contrasted with the knowledge of the war going on all around these characters. It really sends home the message that beneath the surface-no matter how beautiful the surface is...there is something ugly that needs to be addressed. The cast and creative team of this production are able to articulate this message about prejudice, tolerance, and acceptance beautifully. This does not feel like a dated message. It certainly remains relevant and universal to this day.
Ms. Kennedy shines in this production, she dazzles with each musical number she performs, and she subtly develops Nellie's story arc in a way that allows her to become wiser and more mature as the show progresses. Some highlights include her performances of "I'm in Love with a Wonderful Guy" and the crowd pleaser, "Honey Bun"-with the hysterical Salvatore Scozzari as Luther Billis, as well as the rest of the fantastic ensemble. Her scenes with Mr. FIELDS and with his character's children are also very memorable.
The entire company is very strong from start to finish. Susan Dunsten as 'Bloody Mary' is hilarious, with a voice to boot, the aforementioned Ms. Sermonia as her daughter, Tiat graces the stage with her dancing skills; Brian McKay as Captain Bracket and David Snelgrove as Commander Harbison are very believeable as Navy officers in this trying time, and Belle LeMieux-Chan and Tate Yap are adorable as de Becque's children. The ensemble of: Andrew Broderick, Vanessa Cobham, Michael Donals, Jessica Horn, Anna Hurshman, Judy Kovacs, Melaney Mcinenly, Matthew Rossoff, Patrick Stiles, and Christopher Wilson bring this classic production to life to great effect through their song and dance abilities. The small band (under the direction of Steve Thomas) must also be acknowledged, as they truly do justice to these beloved tunes!
The audience of all ages appeared to enjoy this show thoroughly. Call me a cockeyed optimist, but I suspect that just about everyone will leave the theatre whistling one of the many beautiful songs!
SOUTH PACIFIC runs until June 21st at Drayton Entertainment's Huron Country Playhouse in Grand Bend.