When you have a strong story, a memorable music score and a powerhouse cast to work with, you are guaranteed to have a hit on your hands.
That is precisely the case with Porthouse Theatre's production of "South Pacific," which opened its 45th summer season.
Even casual theatergoers will recognize many of the songs in "South Pacific," which was created by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, and adapted from James A. Michener's novel "Takes of the South Pacific." Songs include "Some Enchanted Evening," "There's Nothin' Like A Dame," "Honey Bun," "Younger Than Springtime," "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair" and "Bali Ha'i."
"I thought the story was told clearly," said Terri Kent, artistic director. "I hope the message rings true. It's a transformational piece for our audiences."
The message, Kent said, is about confronting personal prejudices and realizing what really matters. The issues of prejudice are dealt with in two of the story lines. One is the relationship between Ensign Nellie Forbrush (played by Kayce Cummings Green), an American nurse from Arkansas who falls in love with expatriate Frenchman Emile De Becque (played by Greg Violand). Nellie is barely phased when Emile tells her that he had to flee France because he killed a man, but the fact that Emile has two children from his previous Polynesian wife has her seriously reconsidering the relationship.
The other is the budding romance between Lt. Joseph Cable (played by Jake Wood) and Liat (played by Kaishawn Thomas), the daughter of Bloody Mary (played by Colleen Longshaw), the local entrepreneur who peddles her grass skirts and other items to the stationed military members. All of this is set against the backdrop of World War II, where the United States is trying to gain territory from Japan.
There are many lighter moments in the show, mostly courtesy of the members of the Navy, particularly from Luther Billis (played by Tim Welsh), whose thirst for adventure and eagerness to garner attention lands him in more than one scrape.
"Billis is a young man who sees the war as an opportunity to make a name for himself," Welsh said of his character. "That may sound selfish but he will do anything for the woman he loves. This is my favorite golden age musical. It's the best. I'm having a blast."
The audience seemed to enjoy the show on opening night June 14, many of whom gave the cast a standing ovation at the end.
"I thought it was very well done," said Ruth Kent of Kent (no relationship to the director). "It was very enjoyable. The voices were wonderful."
Ticket and show information
"South Pacific" will run through June 29. Tickets range from $32 to $38 for adults, $26 to $35 for seniors and $17 to $21 for students. Subscription packages also are available.
Porthouse Theatre is at 1145 Steels Corners Road in Cuyahoga Falls, near Blossom Music Center. For details, call 330-672-3884 or visit www.porthousetheatre.com online.
Next on stage
Porthouse will next produce "Working," based on the book by Studs Terket and adapted by Stephen Schwart and Nina Faso, from July 4 through 20.