The Sam Houston State University Theatre Department opened Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “South Pacific” as their final main stage production of this semester.
Students have sacrificed their time to bring to life the play that was the second musical to win a Pulitzer Prize. The creative directors and actors all enter into the second night of the play with zealous expectations.
Theatre Professor Tom Prior is at the helm of this battleship and wanted to bring “a fresh way” to how the play is perceived.
“I wasn’t interested in rehashing a production. I wanted to concentrate on the issues that people aren’t really aware of,” said Prior. “The students are doing a great job and pulling all the stops to bring this thing to life.
South Pacific first opened on Broadway in 1949 and ran for five years with 1,925 performances. At the time it closed it was the fifth longest running show in Broadway history.
Dr. Laura Avery is the musical director and is a part of the music and theatre faculty. She has found the play to not only have a great selection of music, but it displays the underlying subject matter of racism as well.
“The thing that’s important is that they were successful in carrying such a controversial subject, while maintaining the height of musical theatre,” said Avery. “The music is really accessible and memorable. It has been an easier project because the tunes are so memorable and easier to teach.”
Jonathon Charles gladly took his call to duty as the productions choreographer. Though his area of influence was dance, he says that the music is the pinnacle of the play.
“A lot of people coming to the show are coming because of the music,” said Charles.
In approaching a classic piece, Charles is mindful of the vision and integrity of the play. He took up the task of teaching students who do not come from a dance background.
“You have to look at the vision of the director and have your own. I look at the actors as real people. This is real people doing made up steps,” said Charles. “I have singers and actors that have taken to it very well.”
Aaron Thacker plays the French plantation owner, Emilie De Becque. This is Thacker’s fourth lead role in his tenure with the theatre department and is his favorite role yet.
“It’s a classic definitely,” said Thacker. “It’s good training for us to do classical pieces.”
The play takes place on an island in the South Pacific during World War II, where a U.S. Navy nurse, Ensign Nellie Forbush (Collette Currie), falls in love with Thacker’s character.
The sailors of the Navy, led by Luther Billis (Trent Coots), are lamenting the absence of women and combat when Lieutenant Joe Cable (Eric Aultman) of the U.S. Marine Corps arrives on the island to initiate a spy missions that could turn the outcome of the war against the Japanese. Tensions arise when Cable falls in love with Fiat ( Jamie Robinson), who is the daughter of a native souvenir dealer Bloody Mary (Jennifer Jackson).
“It’s a beautiful story being told on stage with an abstract setting,” said Charles. “I want the audience to be moved.”
South Pacific has the underlying theme of racism and although is not as prevalent today can be compared to the War in Iraq. The music is the key aspect of the play because many of the songs became hits in pop culture by artists like Tony Bennett and Frank Sinatra. A lot of the people attending are coming for the music, said Charles.
“It’s a magical evening of theatre. The songs are uplifting. It was the second musical to win a Pulitzer and I think its because there are so many layers to it,” said Prior.
Every night, the play runs at 8 p.m. until April 14. “South Pacific” has sold out for all showing nights.
The Cast and Crew:
Collette Currie Ensign Nellie Forbush
Aaron Thacker Emile De Becque
Trent Coots Luther Billis
Eric Aultman Lieutenant Joe Cable
Jennifer Jackson Bloody Mary
Tom Prior Director
Dr. Laura AveryMusical Director
Jonathon Charleschoreographer Gregg Buck and Eric Marshset and light design Kristina Hanssen Costume Design
Larry RouthTechnical Director
Lindsay Luker Stage Manager
Sam Weeks, Johann, Amanda Guiterrez, Charlie Foster, Daniel Morin, Mark Ivy, lee Jane Walker, Tony Johnson, Briana Resam Sarah Reinhardt, Rachel Louge, Alyssa lavergne, Kristina Kee, Peeper Fowler, Nikki Anthony, Darcy Shytles, Amanda Spindola, Heather Sanders, Stephanie Smith, Christina Stroup, Megan Caillier, Jackie Grady, Mitchell greco, larry Lozier, William Dehorney, Richard Keck, Devin Dulaney, Craig Foester, Darrell Joe, Wes Miles, Kristopher Ward, Mark Capablo, Robert Evans, and David Deveau.