Fresh take on a classic
Veteran musical theater director Ron Bright is putting his own spin on this newly staged production of the Rodgers and Hammerstein perennial. With a bearded Steve Wagenseller starring as Emile de Becque, and the glamorous Sonya Mendez as Bloody Mary, Bright's version will have a different look than Glenn Cannon and the Iolani Dramatic Players gave it at the Hawaii Theatre in March.
» When: 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays, through Oct. 30
» Place: Paliku Theatre, Windward Community College
» Tickets: $26 general, $22 seniors and military, $18 children and students
» Call: 235-7433 or go online at www. eTicketHawaii.com
The Windward theater's season includes ...
» "Charlotte's Web," based on the children's book by E.B. White, on Feb. 18 and 19; tickets $12 general, $9 for children, students, seniors and military.
» "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown," the musical based on the long-running "Peanuts" comic strip, from April 7 to 15; tickets $19 general, $16 seniors and military, and $9 children and students.
Season tickets for all three shows: $43
Beards were long out of fashion in the United States and Western Europe during WWII, when Rodgers and Hammerstein adapted James A. Michener's acclaimed war novel for the stage. The de Becque character was clean-shaven during the musical's initial 1949 Broadway run and in the 1958 movie adaptation.
(True to tradition, Buz Tennent and Charles Degala were sans facial hair the last two times Army Community Theatre staged "South Pacific," as was Emmanuel Zibakalam in last month's Iolani production.)
The character of Bloody Mary is a hard-boiled, foul-mouthed Tonkinese hustler. Tatiana Wilson reinterpreted Mary as a comely beachcomber type in Iolani School's production last month, so there's a local benchmark for appraising Sonya Mendez's upcoming interpretation.
Bright's army of loyal fans should be counted on to make this latest staging of "South Pacific" a smash at Paliku Theatre. The songs come from a time when Broadway musicals were part of mainstream culture, and Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein wrote beautifully crafted numbers that audiences were singing long after the show was over. (Bright's oldest son, Clarke, will be musical director.)
The score includes such timeless love songs as "One Enchanted Evening" and "Younger Than Springtime," comic numbers "Honey Bun" and "There Is Nothin' Like a Dame," and even a searing indictment of racial intolerance in "You've Got to Be Carefully Taught."
Although it's easy to speak out against bigotry in 2005, Rodgers and Hammerstein addressed racism at a time when segregation was legal throughout the nation, and laws prohibiting interracial marriage were still on the books in most of the 48 states. Those issues permeate both of the love stories in "South Pacific."
So (cue the organ), can Nellie Forbush, a naive young nurse from Arkansas, find happiness with a mysterious Frenchman old enough to be her father? Can she accept the fact that he fathered children by a Melanesian woman now deceased? Can clean-cut Marine lieutenant Joe Cable set aside his own racial prejudices and marry Bloody Mary's teenage daughter?
Geez, what do you think??