Friday, July 19, 2019

Candlelight's Classic "South Pacific" Carries Modern Message

By Charles "Ebbie" Alfree, III

Candlelight Theatre continues its 50th season with Rodgers & Hammerstein’s musical, South Pacific. Although written in the 1940s, some of the show’s themes still resonate with our society’s current social climate.

South Pacific runs through August 25 at Candlelight Theatre.
Photo by 
Tisa Della-Volpe.
Director and Choreographer, Renee Dobson does a superb job bringing this romantic show back to the stage. Two relationships are blossoming on a south pacific island during World War II. Nellie Forbush, a na├»ve U.S. Navy nurse from Arkansas, is falling for Emile de Becque, a debonair French plantation owner who escaped France many years ago to live on the exotic Bali Ha’I island, while Joseph Cable, a lieutenant sent to the South Pacific to perform a dangerous war mission, is falling for Liat, the daughter of a civilian Tonkinese vendor and friend of the American Seabees, “Bloody Mary." Wanting a better life for her daughter, Bloody Mary is hopeful Cable will marry Liat.

However, life is not just a bowl of jello for the for the four characters. Both, Nellie and Cable are open-minded, but still have to contend with prejudice ideology instilled in them by their families. Nellie is grappling with accepting Emile’s children from his previous marriage to a Polynesian woman, and Cable is torn about loving Liat because of her ethnicity. Both understand their thoughts are based on what they were carefully taught, not the thoughts that either particularly believe are right or true.

The heaviness of the love stories and the war occurring around them are lightened with comical moments mostly provided by Bloody Mary and the American Seabees working on the island, especially during the service men’s stirring numbers, Bloody Mary and There is Nothin’ Like a Dame. Two songs that get the toes a’ tappin!

Ms. Dobson maintains a great pace for the show. Classic musicals tend to be long and can drag if not under the strong supervision of a talented director like Ms. Dobson. The continuous movement of the show is in part due to Scenic Designer, Jeff Reim, who created stunning sets that move seamlessly on and off stage. Timothy Lamont Cannon’s costumes perfectly capture the era of the greatest generation and allow the actors to move and dance freely.

Colleen Clancy as Nellie and Peter Campbell as Emile are superb. They both greatly convey the emotional turmoil their characters are experiencing. And, both are exceptional singers. Mr. Campbell’s baritone voice is transcendent and melts the room, especially during Some Enchanted Evening, while Ms. Clancy, brings smiles on faces during her exuberant number, I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair. 

The leads are supported by many fine performers, including Andy Spinosi as the heroic Cable. He finds the right tone and expression needed to convey the significant lyrics in You’ve Got to be Carefully Taught...truly showcasing his masterful vocal techniques. Angelica Feliciano radiates as Bloody Mary. Her stunning rendition of Bali Ha’i captivates and transports the audience to the enchanted island. She along with the wonderful Jared Calhoun as the loveable but always scheming Seabee, Luther Billis, provide comedic relief for this show about war and suppressed love. I would be remiss not to mention the exuberant Seabees and nurses, who are fabulous during their exciting dance numbers!

Don’t miss this classic that still has lessons for our society to learn about love and acceptance. 

For tickets, visit www.candlelighttheatredelaware.org or call 302.475.2313.

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