Audiences never seem to tire of beloved ‘South Pacific’

By Lorraine Spencer

The best-done numbers in the show were ‘Bloody Mary’ and ‘There is Nothing Like a Dame.’

“South Pacific” is one of the most well-known and best-loved musicals of all time. It seems that every few years one theater or another is producing it. In fact, the current Broadway production recently earned 11 Tony awards, including Best Revival of a Musical.

And yet, people never seem to tire of it.

The New Castle Playhouse’s production of “South Pacific” opened to a full house Friday night. An energetic cast carried the show’s familiar tunes and emotional message to the delighted audience.

The large cast was full of talented actors, from the lead roles to the children. Robert S. Hazen played Emile de Becque with passion and sincerity in a strong, moving voice. Mary Ann Mangini, as Nellie Forbush, sang powerfully, though her portrayal of the na Øve nurse seemed one-dimensional. Neal Edman and Amanda Mays added brilliant performances in their comedic roles, as Luther Billis and Bloody Mary, respectively. Edman’s fun and energetic portrayal of Billis kept the play moving. Mays was entertaining as the gruff, scheming Bloody Mary and her vocal performance was impressive.

Perhaps the best numbers of the show were “Bloody Mary” and “There Is Nothing Like a Dame.” The men’s ensemble sang perfectly, each actor holding his own and singing his lines with pitch-perfect confidence. Their energy and characterization filled the performances with life and laughter.

After the fun-filled first act, the second act seemed a little lack-luster. After the first songs of Act Two, the energy of the show took a dive and dragged to the end. The sound system of the theater added to the demise of the second act. While the first act moves quickly through songs, Act Two is driven by dialogue and voice-overs. Unfortunately, the microphones and speakers made it difficult to understand what the actors were saying. This seems to be an all too common problem in community theaters.

Sound problems aside, the cast and crew of “South Pacific” provided the audience with an entertaining and enjoyable evening. “South Pacific” is a musical full of fun, catchy songs. But, it also delivers an important message of tolerance and acceptance. These two aspects, along with great performances like the one at the New Castle Playhouse, are the reason it endures as an important piece of musical theater today.

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