"Bloody Mary" (Tatiana Wilson) teases the sailors in the Iolani Dramatic Players' production of "South Pacific."

Mato, Wilson shine in
fine Iolani musical

Two talented teens provide the punch to the Iolani Dramatic Players' ambitious production of "South Pacific" this weekend at the Hawaii Theatre. Although Jakara Mato and Tatiana Wilson are still in high school, they perform at a level that would do credit to women twice their age.

'South Pacific'

Presented by the Iolani Dramatic Players at Hawaii Theatre. Repeats at 7 p.m. today. Tickets $10 general. Call 528-0506.

Mato, as Nellie Forbush, hits all the right notes and nuances in playing the na•ve young nurse who falls in love and finds her racial prejudices challenged while serving with American forces in Melanesia during World War II. Mato makes the show worth watching from the first notes of "A Cockeyed Optimist" through the final reprise of "Dites-Moi," and makes Nellie's emotional ups and downs appear natural and believable. Every note and line rings true.

Mato's appeal as a song-and-dance girl coupled with choreographer Christine Yasunaga's dancing nurses makes the big "Honey Bun" number a highlight as well.

Wilson as Bloody Mary, brings similar zing to the show. She provides an unexpected jolt of dramatic energy while interacting with sailors in "Bloody Mary," gives "Bali Ha'i" surprisingly seductive undercurrents, and delivers "Happy Talk" with the same engaging charm. The only problem -- and here director Glenn Cannon creates an unconventional subtext for the story -- is that Wilson is so vivacious and appealing that she looks more like a comely beachcomber than a hard-boiled, foul-mouthed old Tonkinese hustler. Wilson's costume and makeup don't work in making her look the part, but it is a memorable performance anyway.

The men suffer in comparison, but Dillon Powers (LT Joe Cable, USMC) meets the challenge of making "You've Got to Be Carefully Taught" the bitter indictment of prejudice it should be, and Emmanuel Zibakalam (Emile de Becque) sounds appropriately forlorn on "This Nearly Was Mine." Nate Anderson (Luther Billis) was a big hit with his comic dancing in "Honey Bun."

Zibakalam proves himself to be one of the strongest male actors. Powers, Austin Barnes (Cmdr. Harbison) and Charles Fasi (Capt. Brackett) get most of the intended laughs out of the scene in which Cable is put in his place after expressing surprise that a woman could be attracted to an older man. Anderson and his crew of overly clean-cut sailors likewise miss only a laugh or two in "There is Nothin' Like a Dame."

There are times when allowances must be made for high school productions, but musical director John Anderson and his orchestra, and the IDP sound crew, give this demanding show almost flawless support and perform at a level that would be exceptional even for Honolulu's top community theater groups.

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