by Shirley Lorraine
Escape to the islands with South Pacific
Some theatrical experiences just stay with you. The current production of South Pacific on the Rubicon Theater stage is one of those. I grew up on the songs of this show, listening to my father singing in the living room. It is the show that endeared me forever to the theater. And it has not lost its appeal. Apparently, others feel the same, judging by the full houses and sold out shows.
First premiered on Broadway in 1949, the timeless musical by Rodgers and Hammerstein still resonates with passion and emotion. The play, based on James Michener’s “Tales of the South Pacific”, weaves its magic through two love stories set in and around an exotic island during World War II.
South Pacific deals with sensitive subjects involving prejudice, acceptance, forgiveness and yearning, all as pertinent now as they were when the material was first written.
This production, deftly directed with insight and depth by Katharine Farmer, features a two-keyboard accompaniment by Brent Crayon and Jen Oikawa.
Ben Davis as Frenchman Emile de Becque and Madison Claire Parks as Navy Ensign Nellie Forbush make a formidable pair in the lead roles. They deliver in fine fashion the beautiful Some Enchanted Evening, I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair and more.
The enchanted young lovers Lt. Joseph Cable and Liat are played by Alex Nee and Jamie Yun to youthful perfection. Nee’s Younger Than Springtime is heartfelt and poignant. Jodi Kimura’s Bloody Mary is tuned to a fine edge. She entices Lt. Cable with the haunting Bali Hai, leading him to paradise.
Dealmaker sailor Luther Billis is given a well-crafted comic touch by Kirby Ward. He puts his all into There is Nothing Like a Dame and the hysterical Honey Bun numbers. Ward is surrounded by an athletic cast of sailors/dancers who fill the stage with spitfire. Likewise, Nurse Forbush is aided throughout by a bevy of talented nurses/dancers to keep the sparks flying and the toes tapping.
Emile’s children, played by Isabella De Los Santos and Ian Nunney, are both excellent. They deliver their song Dites-Moi and French dialogue with confidence and conviction. Both have participated in the Rubicon’s Stinky Feet Youth Theatre and learned well. They are each a talent to watch in the years to come.
Key Navy personnel Captain Brackett and Commander Harbison, played by Andy Umberger and Joseph Fuqua, display the crisp demeanor one associates with an officer.
The multi-use set pieces easily transform the scenes, backed by scenic projections which bring the audience onto the islands with the players. The compact stage seems to expand, and contract as needed to accommodate the large cast as well as the intimate scenes.
There are reasons South Pacific has long been an audience favorite. The music and lyrics are eloquent and meaningful. The characters and situations face familiar life hurdles. The energy, passion and sincerity are palpable. Even if you’ve seen South Pacific many times before, you will want to see it again. But hurry, seats are filling fast.
South Pacific runs through December 23. Performances are Wednesdays at 2 and 7 p.m., Thursdays at 7 p.m., Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 2 and 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. Rubicon Theater, 1006 E. Main St, Ventura. www.rubicontheatre.org or (805) 667-2900 for tickets. Prices vary. Make reservations soon as many shows sell out.