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Jean Brenner: “Wonderful” Rodgers and Hammerstein

Broadway’s “South Pacific” has stood the test of time

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“South Pacific” continues to be an absolutely wonderful musical show to see, with its music to hum for years to come. It has stood the trials of time, racial issues, interpretations and amateur performances by various actors and directors, and still, it is wonderful.
The story is captivating; the people who are depicted are interesting, funny, and representational. Sometimes, people who have seen an amateur performance think they have seen “South Pacific,” but, really, they have not seen the true essence of the show written by Oscar Hammerstein II and Joshua Logan, nor have they felt and heard the marvelous music and lyrics by Richard Rodgers and Hammerstein, based on the book by James A. Michener, “Tales of the South Pacific.”
Although the story is set on an island in the South Pacific it was conceived by Bucks County writers, some of whose work is thought to have occurred at the Doylestown Hammerstein home.
The time is World War II. Soldiers, sailors, nurses, and natives live together on two of a cluster of islands which the U.S.A. is trying to hold from the invading Japanese.
Leanne Acero, portrays Bloody Mary, a clever huckster and excellent singer/actor (“Bali Ha’i”) with a beautiful daughter, Liat, portrayed by Junko Yasuda Uasuda. Lt. Cable (Kevin Toniazzo-Naughton) is mesmerized by Liat, but his upbringing deters him from loving her too much since she is Polynesian and he is American (“You’ve Got To Be Taught to Love and Hate”).
Meredith Beck of Doylestown, plays the female lead, Nellie Forbush, (“I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair”) This is the Mary Martin role in the original first Broadway production 70 years ago. Mick Bleyer portrays Emile de Becque, (“Some Enchanted Evening”) the French plantation owner who falls in love with Nellie. Both actors have beautiful, strong voices and are excellent in their roles. Beck has played leads in several musicals with BCCPA; Bleyer last portrayed El Gallo in “The Fantasticks.”
The leading comedic actor is Luther Billis (“There is Nothin’ Like a Dame”) played by Scott Langdon who has his hand in nearly everyone’s life as he tries to make everything work out for his buddies and looks after Nellie Forbush.
Makayla McClintic of Doylestown, and Saxon Okumura, from New Jersey, very nicely play Emile’s two Polynesian children, singing “Dites Moi,” and “Happy Talk.”
Kevin Krum skillfully directs this warm, feel-good musical.

Other fine performers in the large cast are Evan Ross Brody, Maurice Charles, Zachary Debevec, Maggie Griffin-Smith, David Jack, Jesse Jones, Bradley S. Kieper, Patrick Ludt, Renee McFillin, Jessica Riloff, Carl Smith, Grace Szczepkowski, Kendyll Young, and Shan Williams II. Jackie Robinson is Stage Manager assisted by Paul Dake.
The music accompaniment was so rich, I quickly accepted and forgot that the music I was hearing was recorded.
Set design is by Henry Heyman, set construction by Bob Binkley. David Manning is musical director; Andrea Lesnick is choreographer; E.S. Penney did prop design. Sharon Rill-Soester is wardrobe manager and Nick Wyant is video and lighting designer. Howard Perloff is producer.
“South Pacific” continues playing matinee and evening performances through Aug. 22. Tickets may be ordered at buckscountycpa.org or by calling 215-297-8540.
Matinees Thursday, Saturday and Sunday; evenings at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
Note: This BCCPA show was cast in early 2020 and scheduled for production in the late summer of 2020. Every one of the principal actors returned to perform in 2021.
The original production of “South Pacific” became the second-longest running Broadway musical at that point, just behind Rodgers and Hammerstein’s earlier “Oklahoma.”
Jeanbrenner3@gmail.com


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