South Pacific

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Pat Koskinen

The Birdcage Theater opened its annual musical production this weekend. This year’s show is
SOUTH PACIFIC. Since I saw last year’s production of THE PAJAMA GAME, I came
expecting to see a fantastic show and have a wonderful time. I was not disappointed. The
Birdcage gets better every year, and this particular show has everything – music, dance, drama,
comedy, a talented cast, and superior direction.

Oscar Hammerstein's lyrics and Richard Roger’s music are perfect. They would be entertaining
under any circumstances. A magnificent cast long with the Paradise Symphony Orchestra,
conducted by Dr. Lloyd Roby, makes them sensational. The musical numbers are memorable -
"Some Enchanted Evening," "Bali Ha'i," "There is Nothin' Like a Dame," "Younger Than
Springtime" and more. Both Katy Ryan, who plays Ensign Nellie Forbush, and Walt Gess who
plays the other leading role, that of Emile de Becque, have beautiful voices. Ginnie Stone,
Bloody Mary in the show, sings like an angel, but her magnificent laugh alone would be worth
coming to hear. Deborah Wigely, the vocal coach for the production has helped every cast
member to utilize their talent.

At the heart of South Pacific is the love story of a naive young Navy nurse, Ensign Nellie
Forbush, and an older French plantation owner, Emile de Becque, who meet on a U.S.-occupied
South Sea island. Gess appears as stong and self determined as de Becque would have to be have
lived the life he has lived. Katy Ryan personifies the the innocence and energy that make Nellie
lovable. A young soldier, Lieutenant Joseph Cable, and a beautiful Polynesian girl, Liat, also fall
in love. Luther Hillis, a scheming sailor, and Bloody Mary, the native queen of the black market,
add wonderful supporting turns. Adding to the drama are the facts that Emile reveals to Nellie -
that he came to the island because years ago he killed a man in France and that he has two
Eurasian Children. The plot becomes even more complicated when Cable tells the Commander
that he has been sent to spy on the Japanese on a nearby island. Since Emile de Becque knows
this terrain well, Cable wants to induce him to join him on this dangerous mission. The
commanding officers, consequently, call on Nellie's help by asking her to find out as much as
she can about Emile. Commander William Harrison, forcefully played by Bret Lawson, voices
the high note of the drama, when he states at a Thanksgiving show that the US is losing the war
and it will be a long time before anyone gets home. While listening to all the wonderful music,
the audience becomes deeply engaged in the plot. Who will marry who? Will the mission take
place? Who will be killed? As Nellie considers whether or not she can forget Emile’s previous
relationship with a Polynesian woman and Lieutenant Cable considers whether or not his
wealthy Philadelphia family will accept his marriage to a native girl, the reality of racial
prejudice is introduced into Paradise. This is a compelling story.

The comic elements are constantly injected by Luther Hillis, the scheming sailor played by Doug
Kolsters, and Bloody Mary, the Tonkinese matriarch played by Ginnie Stone. As Bloody Mary
she is formidable and robustly funny. When Kolsters appears as Honey Bun, the fantasy girl
friend of all the sailors, the audience laughs and laughs. His gift for physical comedy is apparent.
The dance routines choreographed by Trish Young infuse the show with both grace and humor.
The entire chorus consistently gives a top- notch performance to back up the lead characters.

The State Theater has the stage and technical capabilities to provide a great environment for this
presentation. However, such a show is a tremendously complicated effort. To unite the music,
choreography, sets, costumes and acting is a real feat. Shirley Bugado and her assistant Rae
Kyte did an almost impossible task when they provided the direction necessary to unite all these
elements in one sensational show. Do not miss it.