A Bold and Brash South Pacific Now at the Walnut Street Theatre

Executive Director of PhillyGayCalendar

The Walnut Street Theatre opens its 208th season with Rogers and Hammerstein’s musical, South Pacific. By all accounts a great production and you have only until October 23 to see it.

South Pacific first appeared on Broadway in 1949 and has become a landmark in American musical theatre. The plot deals with two love stories set during World War II. Along the way, we hear the controversial “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught” which describes how racism is taught, not inherent, and the much more upbeat songs as “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair,” “Some Enchanted Evening,” “I’m in Love with a Wonderful Guy,” “Younger Than Springtime,” and “There is Nothing Like a Dame.”  That last song is rousingly sung by what might be called the most testosterone-charged male chorus you could see. They were terrific. Not only were they absolutely gorgeous to look at, but they could sing and dance. Hunkmania! Unfortunately, there are no production photos of this grand bunch of hunks. Kudos to Charles Abbott, the director, John Daniels, for vocal and music direction, Michelle Gaudette, choreography, and to the Walnut Theatre’s casting department (there must be one) for bringing us all this male beauty with so much talent.


In the leading roles, Kate Fahrner (Ensign Nellie Forbush), and Paul Schoeffler (Emile de Becque) provided energy and presence in their roles. Ben Michael’s Lieutenant Cable embodied that lost soul’s confusion and passion, while his love interest, Liat, played by Alison T. Chi, shocked us at first, since she indeed appeared to be “Younger Than Springtime.” Never has a Liat appeared more vulnerable or so young. Reveling in the character role of Bloody Mary, Lori Tan Chin galvanized the audience’s attention. Hers was an outstanding character performance by a seasoned theatre professional. You might best remember her from her role as Mei Chang on the television series, Orange is the New Black. Fran Prisco as Luther Billis was appropriately silly and melancholy as his part demanded. Other outstanding cast members included Dan Olmstead, Ben Dibble, Billy D. Hart, Christopher Chin, the de Becque children, and in true, luxury casting, Jeff Coon as Commander William Harbison.


Along with the breathtaking male chorus, scenic designer Robert Andrew Kovach deserves special mention for his lush, sensuous Pacific islands, teeming with flora and mystery. John Daniels led the pit orchestra which played with flair and genuine excitement.


The Walnut Street Theatre is located at 825 Walnut Street, a beautiful, historic building. For more information about seeing South Pacific, visit their website: www.WalnutStreetTheatre.org  or call 215-574-3550.

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