The Players Club of Swarthmore’s production of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s SOUTH PACIFIC is lively and entertaining. The show boasts some of Broadway’s most memorable tunes-like “Bali Ha’i” and “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair.” The book, by Joshua Logan, is based on stories adapted from James Michener’s Tales of the South Pacific. The strong cast pulls off an excellent performance.
Paul Weagraff as Emile de Becque has a sympathetic, old world charm, transporting us to the1940s with finesse. His beautiful singing is even and warm. Allison Gerrard (Nellie Forbush) plays a wonderfully naïve, self-proclaimed “hick” who stands to learn from the worldly de Becque, who has escaped France to live a simpler life on a tropical island.
John Dingle is touching as Lt. Joseph Cable. He sings “Younger than Springtime” sweetly and earnestly. Cable finds heartbreak in loving Liat, played by deftly by Mattie Jane Dunn. His song “You’ve got to be Carefully Taught” explores issues of racism, yet we never really learn why he won’t marry the young Tonkinese girl. Joel Kutner, as the loveable scoundrel Luther Billis, adds levity to the show’s dark plot.
Marie Simons commands the stage as Bloody Mary, singing the mysteriously beautiful “Bali Ha’i.” Usually beating the foreigners at their own game, she is adept at keeping the upper hand. Bloody Mary epitomizes the strong Tonkinese woman, learning to adapt to the changes on her once peaceful island.
SOUTH PACIFIC touches on some important and current themes. The intermingling of cultures and ranks is central to the plot-yet the ideas never seem fully developed. Nellie eventually comes to terms with her own racism in her disapproval of de Becque’s marriage to a native woman-but the audience doesn’t experience the process of her change of heart. Still, Rodgers & Hammerstein pushed the limits for 1950s America, bringing important issues to the stage.
Music and Lyrics by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II
Book by Oscar Hammerstein II and Joshua Logan
Directed by Paul Kerrigan
April 22 – May 14, 2011
Players Club of Swarthmore
614 Fairview Avenue
Swarthmore, PA 19081