Ivoryton Playhouse's summer show is Rodgers and Hammerstein's Pulitzer Prize winning musical, "South Pacific." The story centers on an American nurse stationed on a South Pacific island during World War II who falls in love with a widowed French plantation owner but struggles to accept his mixed race children. A secondary romance between a young U.S. lieutenant and a young Tonkinese woman explores the consequences, should he marry his Asian sweetheart who is the daughter of Bloody Mary, the seller of Island wares. The prejudice of people is an important message for people to overcome in current day as it was back then. Director/choreographer David Edwards and musical director Michael McAssey cast talented performers in these roles. They bring them to life for current day audiences to savor and enjoy. Their combined efforts win their hard working cast a standing ovation a job very well done.
David obtains stellar performances from his cast while Michael obtains superb vocals from the performers and lovely, lush music from the six piece orchestra. David's dances are seen in "Bloody Mary", "There Is Nothing Like a Dame", the French version of "Bali Hai", "Wash That Man" and "Wonderful Guy." One of the best dances occurs in "Honey Bun" where the chorus girls do a tap dance that stops the show. I last reviewed David's direction of "La Cage" last summer at the Ivoryton Playhouse and he does a bang up job once again. The set changes are handle expertly by hard working stage manager, Theresa Stark and the cast. The phenomenal lighting is by Marcus Abbott which sets the mood for each scene and the terrific set by Daniel Nischan and multitude of lovely costumes by Lenore Grunko.
Leading this cast as Nellie Forbush is the gorgeous, statuesque blonde, Adrianne Hick. She does an excellent job as Nellie, the spunky nurse. Adrianne's lovely voice is heard in "Cock-eyed Optomist", "My Girl Back Home", "Wash That Man" and "Wonderful Guy" and she makes the transition from wide eyed hick to mature woman when she overcomes her prejudices by the end of the show. Her comic side is seen in "Honey Bun" with Billis while her dramatic side is shown when she thinks Emile is dead. This gutwrenching moment moves the audience to tears. David Pittsinger does a fantastic job as Emile with his topnotch French accent with his lines and his powerhouse baritone voice in his songs. His numbers include "Some Enchanted Evening" with Nellie and the powerful, show stopping, "This Nearly Was Mine" which tugs on your heartstrings during his stirring rendition. Other dramatic moments include his confession to Nellie, his refusal and later acceptance to go on the mission and his final appearance brings tears to your eyes, bringing the show to its satisfying conclusion. Both Adrianne and David have excellent chemistry together.
One of the biggest scene stealers in this show is Patricia Shuman as Bloody Mary. She makes a gangbusters entrance, bringing this comic character to life in Act 1. Patricia becomes more serious in Act 2 when she wants Cable to marry her daughter, Liat or Mary will marry her off to another man. Patricia displays her stunning voice in "Bali Hai" when she tries to entice Joe Cable to visit her island and in "Happy Talk" when she tries to convince him to marry Liat. Her language malapropisms are hilarious in Act 1 and she delivers the goods as this eccentric character. Her lovely daughter is played by the gorgeous, Annelise Cepero. She does a lovely dance in "Happy Talk." Tall, dark and handsome, Peter Carrier is marvelous as Lt. Joe Cable, the doomed lover of Liat. He displays his powerful tenor voice in "My Girl Back Home", a comic number with Nellie, "Younger Than Springtime" my favorite number and in "You've Got to Be Carefully Taught" where he says prejudice is learned and not born inside of you. A profound statement true today in the events in South Carolina.
One of the funniest characters in this show is William Shelby as Luther Billis, a conman sailor who is always out to make a buck. His antics as the crazy womanizing sailor are priceless. He leads the men in "Bloody Mary", "Nothing Like a Dame" and "Honey Bun" song and dances. He steals many a scene as this wild and crazy character. R.Bruce Connelly is the gruff, Captain Brackett who keeps his men in line and his second in command Cmdr. Harbison is played by Tom Libonate. They handle their comic and dramatic moments with finesse. The cute young children of Emile are well played by Kayla Colguhoun and Avital Goldberg-Curran who share the role of Ngana and Dylan Huber who plays Jerome. They display their voices in "Dites Moi" with both David and Adrianne. They are as cute as buttons in these roles. I have many pleasant memories of this show, having directed it back in 1994. Kudos to the hard working male and female chorus members, too. So for a fabulous rendition of this classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, be sure to catch "South Pacific" at the historic Ivoryton Playhouse where Katherine Hepburn started her career before time runs out. Tell them Tony sent you. The Playhouse was built as a recreation hall for employees of the Comstock-Cheney factory in 1911 and opened as the Ivoryton Playhouse on June 17, 1930, becoming Connecticut's first summer theater