The last time I saw a production of South Pacific, I was twelve years old. I sat on a prop box in the wings, hunched over my arms which were resting on my knees being completely swept away by the sights and sounds of the local theater actors. Had someone not poked me in the back, I’m fairly certain I would have missed my stage entrance.
On Tuesday night, I had the privilege of attending opening night of South Pacific, performed at Pittsburgh’s Benedum Center. From the first strains of the overture to the end of the curtain call, I was completely enthralled, much more so than my twelve year old self, watching from the wings. The music, the lyrics, the actors’ performances all combined to bring to life James Michener’s tale of life on a remote island in an unknown culture during wartime. Most recognized for its amazing score – “Some Enchanted Evening,” “Bali Ha’i,” “Younger Than Springtime,” “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair,” and “I’m in Love With a Wonderful Guy,” the orchestra and actors didn’t disappoint when delivering these Broadway standards.
David Pittsinger’s portrayal of Emile de Becque, the Frenchman plantation owner who captures the heart of small-town cockeyed optimist Ensign Nellie Forbush (played by Carmen Cusack), was nothing short of phenomenal. His rich baritone voice (seriously swoon-worthy) and eloquently delivered lines had me wishing I was the one he wanted to whisk away to a plantation high in the hills of the lush, beautiful island of Bali Ha’i. Another cast favorite, for me, was Bloody Mary, played by Jodi Kimura. Kimura captivated the audience as the humorous, eccentric Tonkinese woman who sells native trinkets to the American stationed on the island and wishes for her beautiful daughter, Liat (portrayed by Sumie Maeda) to marry the handsome American lieutenant Joseph Cable (played by Anderson Davis). Her rendition of “Bali Ha’i” was hauntingly beautiful and one of the highlights of the show. Adding laughs and mischief to the story line were the Seabees and nurses who rounded out the cast.
The themes of falling hopelessly in love during unpredictable circumstances, life in a new culture, and facing ones own prejudices are as relatable today as they were when they play first debuted back in 1949. The entire cast did an amazing job of transporting the audience to a little remote island in the South Pacific during World War II. It most certainly was “Some Enchanted Evening.”
South Pacific will be playing at the Benedum Center in Pittsburgh until November 7th and is currently touring across the nation. If the show stops in your city, I highly recommend spending an evening seeing this incredible play.
Disclaimer: The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust provided me with two tickets to see the show, but all opinions and thoughts expressed here are my own.