For many years, the “shining light” in regional theaters has been the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire. This company tries to bring us musicals from different eras to keep the mix comfortable for both young and older audiences. There is no mistaking that the old classics are the ones that their customer base loves dearly and they could not have selected a better “classic” than Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “South Pacific”. This is a musical that became an award winner over 60 years ago ( actual Broadway opening was in 1949) and what it talked about can be as important to our lives today as it was back then. Some things do not change. Based on the Pulitzer Prize novel “Tales of the South Pacific” by James A. Michner, this book by Joshua Logan and Oscar Hammerstein II ( who wrote the lyrics) is a story that deals with passion,love, war, survival and of great importance , hate and prejudice! At times you will smile, at others you will find a tear falling down your cheek- that is what this is all about, the passion that we feel as well as that of those on the stage.
The story is about a group of American sailors and Navy nurses during the second World War. They are stationed on a small island in the South pacific. They are young people, many away from home for the first time and all facing the fear that the war could escalate to heights they are not prepared for. Most of them have survived the day to day routine, but when the situation gets a bit tougher, their lives are changing. On this beautiful tropical island, there is a wealth plantation owner, one Emile da Becque ( a sterling performance by Stephen R. Buntrock, who shows that a talented tenor can in fact make beautiful music with music that has primarily been done by a baritone- just shows how true talent can overcome a small obstacle). He is a Frenchman who many years before has escaped to the island and is one of great wealth and respect on the island. Nellie Forbush ( the darling and very talented Elizabeth Lanza, who just keeps maturing ion our stages) is from Little Rock and finds herself falling in love with this man. This is one of the love stories involved. The other is that between a Lt. Joseph Cable ( deftly handled by Ben Jacoby) who finds himself attracted to Liat ( the beautiful Emily Morales) a native girl, daughter of Bloody Mary (amazingly played by Bethany Thomas, who just might find herself with a Jeff Award for this role) who is a schemer and saleswoman beyond anything these newbees have seen. Both of theses love affairs grow until it appears to both Lt. Cable and Nurse Forbush that they cannot marry the other party- not because of lack of love, but because they are “different”- the song “”You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught” is one with amazing lyrics relative to learning to hate the things your parents hate and the not to judge people by who they are, but instead by what they are. These words are relevant in today’s world, over 50 years later in just the same way.
The story is not all “downer” and the music is amazing. A songbook with songs like: “A Cock-eyed Optimist”,”Some Enchanted Evening”, “”Bloody Mary”, “There is Nothing Like A Dame”,”Bali Ha’i” I’m “Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair”, ” A Wonderful Guy”, “This Nearly Was Mine”, “Younger Than Springtime” and an incredible rendition of “Honey Bun” performed to the hilt by Ms Lanza and Stef Tovar as con-man Luther Billis ( and soothsayers thought he was only a dramtic actor- he does comedy and music to perfection.). This is a strong ensemble from head to toe and with direction by David H. Bell, as you walk into the theater you know you are in for a theatrical experience.Bell is one of our “genius” directors- who can tell a story better with his actions than some playwrights can with thier words. Add to his direction, the choreography by Matt Raftery ( who we have also watched mature into a masterful director as well(- check out the kids show “Alice In Wonderland” on the same stage), music direction by Ryan T. Nelson , a set by Thomas M.Ryan that almost makes you feel the heat, great sound by Robert E.Gilmartin, unique lighting by the always reliable Diane Ferry Williams, and of course, Nancy Missimi and her group handling the costumes ( always perfect in every detail). Sally Weiss handles the props and there are a ton of those to contend with- beautiful job!
As I have always said, the ensemble in a musical makes the difference between a production and a must see production ( which is where I classify this one), so although the above mentioned performers all exceeded my expectations, it is the other cast members, the ones who run off stage as one character and come right down the next aisle as another, changing personalities with their costumes that make this production ( or in fact, any major musical) the shining star that it is:
Courtney Crouse,Jerry Galante, Stephen Schellhardt,Dev Kennedy, Robert Hunt, Jim Deselm, jon Harrison, Aaron Conklin, Patrick Martin, Jameson Cooper,Travis Taylor, Alexandra Palkovic,Amanda Tanguay, Dara Cameron and Audrey Billings-Oh, yes! The children, the adorable children Alexis Navarrete Aponte and Dylan M. Lainez- they are solid as well! there is no way this show would hit the heights it does without you. Another note, while the orchestra, under the direction of patti Garwood, sounds like it is a full orchestra, filling the theater with the wonderful works of the genius duo of Rodgers and Hammerstein, there are indeed only ten musicians. They never overpower the performers and yet we hear every note as clear as a bell. This is why Marriott is so acclaimed- they do it all and to perfection.
“South Pacific” will continue at Marriott through June 2nd with a performance schedule as follows:
Wednesdays at 1 and 8 p.m.
Saturdays at 4:30 and 8 p.m.
Sundays at 1 and 5 p.m.
Tickets range from $40-$48 and seniors ( 62 and up) and students receive a $5 discount.
There are some dinner packages available on Wednesday and Thursdays at $55 per person ( dinner and the show-outstanding value)
You can get your tickets by viisting the box office located at Marriott Lincolnshire Resort, 10 Marriott Drive in Lincolnshire ( just South of Half day/Route 22 and East of Milwaukee Avenue/Route 21), by phone at 847-634-0200 or online at www.MarriottTheatre.com
Plenty of free parking and lots of dining on the grounds or along the way
to see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at South Pacific”