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By Photo courtesy of Peter W Beckman
BY CAMILLE GAVIN Contributing writer
Call me old-fashioned, but as I watched Stars' performance of "South Pacific" on Sunday it made me yearn for a time when musicals told a romantic story and left you singing at least one of the songs for hours after you left the theater.
Yes, Rodgers and Hammerstein knew how to keep an audience entertained, which is what it's all about, isn't it?
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday
Where: Stars Restaurant Theatre, 1931 Chester Ave.
Admission: $54 to $59 or $38 for show only; students $39 or $23 show only
While I found the Stars production enjoyable, it is a bit long -- nearly three hours, counting intermission. I also thought it could stand a bit of polishing in terms of its pacing and some of the vocalizing. Judging from the frequent applause, however, the nearly full house of fans didn't seem to notice any flaws in the performances.
"South Pacific," as the name indicates, is set on an island somewhere in the Pacific during World War II. It's inhabited mainly by Navy personnel, including nurses, and it's not being run exactly by the book.
Director Sheryl Cleveland takes advantage of that factor to create several humorous song-and-dance scenes featuring either Rosie Ayala, who's hilarious as a tough-talking Bloody Mary, or comedic Shay Burke, the energetic leader of the sailors.
All of them look like they're having a lot of fun carrying out the choreography, designed by Kelci Lowry. And that makes it fun for the audience, too.
Jennifer Prow is delightful as Nellie Forbush, the nurse who falls in love with Emile de Becque, the French plantation owner, played by Kevin Trueblood. Their voices are well-matched, and they meld nicely as their love affair progresses through its ups and downs.
The scene that ends the first act is a memorable one. It begins on a lively note with Nellie singing, "I'm gonna wash that man right of my hair" in a makeshift shower but ends in a poignant way with Emile's touching solo of "Some Enchanted Evening."
Incidentally, the musical interpretation provided by Jeff Rosburgh and his four-piece ensemble does a lot to set the mood for many of the scenes as well as accompanying the singers.
Katerina Margariti, an exchange student from Albania, appeared as Liat, a native girl. She has only a few spoken lines but is effective in the graceful and dance-like way she moves about the stage.
In her role she falls in love, seemingly at first sight, with Lt. Cable, played by Josh Hefner. The mixed-race aspect of their relationship is resolved rather neatly when he is killed in combat.
The play opens with Olivia and Diego Ayala, as the plantation owner's children, who carry on a charming conversation in French.
It's rare to see children as young as they are have such perfect timing and confident stage presence.
Mickey Farley and Norman Colwell appear as the stuffy superior officers tasked with trying to keep order on the base.
In his program notes, Stars artistic director Bruce Saathoff refers to the musical as a "great staple of the American theatre song book."
It's hard to accept that, if it were a real person, "South Pacific," would be close to collecting its Social Security payments.
Yet it's true.
The musical opened on Broadway on April 7, 1949, and ran for almost five years, winning 10 Tony awards. It starred Mary Martin as Nellie and Metropolitan Opera star Ezio Pinza as Emile.