City Springs has spared no expense in making this a memorable experience: Broadway’s wonderful Baayork Lee, whom I was fortunate enough to see in the original cast of “A Chorus Line,” is the director and choreographer. Brandt Blocker, the Artistic Director and Conductor, has assembled a 25-piece orchestra that will have you blissed out before the gorgeous overture is finished.
Many will know that “South Pacific” is a treasure of American musical theatre; it premiered on Broadway in 1949; its portrayal of Americans stationed in a faraway culture in wartime is, sadly, as relevant today as when it first thrilled audiences four years after the end of World War II. It ran for years; then, the Rodgers and Hammerstein organization did not allow a Broadway revival until the 2008 Lincoln Center production which I was fortunate enough to see. This Pulitzer Prize-winning, deeply felt musical drama, not surprisingly, won a Tony for Best Musical Revival. It was heavenly.
The performers are close to perfection: Broadway’s William Michals and Kristine Reese play leading parts of Emile de Becque, the French planter who is searching for his own paradise; and Ensign Nellie Forbush, the Navy nurse from Little Rock whose romance with de Becque runs aground when she learns of his children with a Polynesian woman (now deceased). Nellie’s opening number (“the girl’s first song,” showbiz folks call it) is the irresistible “A Cockeyed Optimist.” You love Nellie from this moment on; and Ms. Reese’s charm and crystalline voice are magnetic.
Speaking of lush voices, Mr. Michals’ gorgeous baritone is magnificent. His rendition of “This Nearly Was Mine,” when Emile thinks he has lost Nellie, brings tears to the eyes and stops the show.
And there’s more! Yvonne Strumecki’s portrayal of Bloody Mary, an entrepreneurial islander and mother of Liat (the beautiful Cassandra Hlong), sings “Bali Ha’i” to Lt. Joe Cable (Maxim Gukhman) and other sailors. This may be the most beautiful, haunting song of yearning for “your own special island,” whatever that is to you, in all of American theatre. Ms. Strumecki is superb.
Other standouts include Chris Saltalamacchio’s Billis, Haden Rider’s Stewpot, JD Myers’ Professor, Bart Hansard’s Captain Brackett, and Steve Hudson’s Commander Harbison. And there are others; they are all in the program. Michael Yeargan’s scenic design; Mike Wood’s lighting design: thank you.
Ms. Lee’s direction has obviously inspired this talented cast. Judy Cole is the Music Director. The entire show is adapted by James A. Michener’s novel “Tales of the South Pacific.” I wish I could give credit to every person involved in the show. The beauty of “South Pacific” is largely ineffable. This production will become a legend; I hope you can see it.
For more information, visit cityspringstheatre.com.