Tale of love, war is more than fair

Moonlight Troupers' production of `South Pacific' has both uneven and enchanting aspects


Arundel Live


Anne Arundel Community College's Moonlight Troupers tackle Rodgers and Hammerstein's Pulitzer Prize-winning South Pacific - with some success - in a run that ends Sunday at the Pascal Center for Performing Arts.

The 1949 musical originally starred Mary Martin and the Metropolitan Opera's Ezio Pinza. Based on James Michener's Tales of the South Pacific, it is set on a small island during World War II where homesick servicemen wait to enter the battle against the Japanese. South Pacific features parallel love stories, both dealing with racial prejudice. The two main characters, middle-age French planter Emile de Becque and young nurse Nellie Forbush, are attracted to each other, although they are from different worlds, with Nellie experiencing difficulty accepting de Becque's Polynesian children. College-educated Lt. Joe Cable falls in love with a young island woman, Liat.

Nellie confronts her small-town prejudices as Cable confronts his.

Advanced for its day, the musical's social commentary remains relevant, as expressed in the song "You've Got to Be Carefully Taught" - "taught to be afraid of people whose eyes are oddly made, and people whose skin is a different shade, you've got to be carefully taught."

Although the Moonlight Troupers' version does not provide a completely enchanted evening, there is much to admire in this production, especially when the lively ensemble sings a rousing "There Is Nothing Like a Dame" or has fun with "Bloody Mary" and "Honey Bun."

Essential to the success of any South Pacific production is the casting of the role of Nellie. Kimberly Sonntag, an AACC theater student and a registered nurse who moved to the area from Hawaii, seems a natural for the part. Sonntag is a skilled-enough actress to create a believable Nellie, and she moves well, and generally sings adequately although she had some pitch problems Saturday night.

Also believable in a leading role is local stage veteran Bob Brewer as de Becque, although he did not deliver his usual fine vocal performance Saturday. Brewer did not project well on "Some Enchanted Evening" or "This Nearly Was Mine," although he offered a delightful parody of Nellie's "Gonna Wash That Man Out-a My Hair," complete with fancy footwork.

As Cable, Jordan Klein conveyed his character's need to serve his country as well as his conflicted emotions over Liat (Michelle Post). Klein provided a high point of the evening in his delivery of "You've Got to Be Carefully Taught."

Delivering several of the evening's comic and musical highs was Ariel Bumbalough as Liat's mother, wheeler-dealer Bloody Mary. Bumbalough offered a haunting "Bali Hai" and a delightful "Happy Talk."

Also doing his share to provide high comedy is Andre Hinds-Miller, who plays Luther Billis with gusto and is at his comic best as a unique "Honey Bun."

Always-reliable actor Jerry Vess plays feisty island commander Captain Brackett with style and makes thoroughly intelligible and interesting every scene he graces.

Director Barbara Marder does her usual excellent job, here with a cast of 25, moving the action seamlessly so that speedy set changes become part of the entertainment.

Tommy Parlon deserves high marks for his terrific choreography, as does music director Raymond Ascione and his 23-member orchestra.

For tickets to any of this weekend's performances, call 410-777-2457.

ASO to perform Verdi, Tchaikovsky

Tonight and tomorrow night, Jose-Luis Novo conducts the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra in a "Fate in Music" program that features Verdi's La Forza del Destino Overture and Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 6 - Pathetique. Also, award-winning 23-year-old pianist Orion Weiss will play Liszt's Piano Concerto No. 1. For tickets, call ASO Box Office at 410-263-0907.

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