Recommended*** The production of Rogers and Hammerstein’s marvelous “Tales of the South Pacific”, the musical based on the work of James Michener’s Pulitzer Prize winning book, “South Pacific” is now gracing the stage of The Cadillac Palace Theatre as part of Broadway In Chicago. This is the Bartlett Sher production which was a Tony Award winner in 2008, but let it be known that this is a scaled down touring show with a far younger and less experienced cast of non-Equity performers who are just earning their credits. They are strong and play their roles well and make the wonderful score of this show come alive, and unlike other recent productions are forced to work with a smaller number of live musicians relying on computer generated musical background.
The story is one of love and hate as we are on a tropical island during World War II. One of the stories is about a Nvy nurse, Nellie Forbush ( the adorable , local talent,Jennie Sophia who filled in for Katie Reed)) and a French plantation owner, Emile De Becque (Deftly handled by Marcello Guzzo, who was brilliant in the role despite being a little youthful in appearance). He is a widower with two children ( bi-racial). As they fall in love, they are forced to overcome many obstacles. The second love story involves Navy airman Joe Cable and a young native girl Liat. Their story of forbidden love is fostered by her mother, Bloody Mary ( fabulously played by Cathy Foy-Mahi) who has the show stopping numbers, “Bali Hai”, “Bloody Mary” and “Happy Talk”. In fact , this sscore is filled with some of the most memorable musical theater songs, “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair”, ” Wonderful Guy”,”Cockeyed Optimist”, “Honey Bun” ( beautifully handled by Ms Sophia) , the electrifying “Some Enchanted Evening” by Guzzo and of course the sailor numbers, “Nothin Like a Dame” and “Honey Bun”. Con-man Luther Billis ( entertainingly portrayed by Chriatian Marriner) who along with the seabees add comedy to the show.
The story is purely one that deals with prejudice during this period of history ( not that far from what we are experiencing today) and the song “You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught” is one that we should all listen to and grasp the message from. While there is a somewhat happy ending, this is not so for all and yet, the ending is one of redemtion and hope, where a tear managed to trickle down most audience members eyes. There is by the way a brief nude scene.
While it is not as strong a production as I would like to see in a Chicago venue, it is one that is worthwhile seeing. I would only hope that Broadway In Chicago finds a way to give us more Equity tours with full orchestras. After all, this is Chicago and our theater audiences deserve the best.
“South Pacific” will continue at The Cadillac Palace Theatre ( 151 W.Randolph Street) through February 26th. Tickets can be purchased at any of the Broadway In Chicago box offices or Ticketmaster 1-800-775-2000 or online at www.BroadwayInChicago.com where you can also view the seating charts, performance schedule and ticket prices.