Marie Blair ’11
Racial tension, military hardships, and the pressures of love. Though South Pacific was written sixty years ago, its themes are still relevant today.
South Pacific’s opening night was November 13 and was performed a total of five times over the course of two weeks. Considering the play ran for only two weekends, it was widely attended. The lyrics and music for South Pacific were written by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, and the book by Joshua Logan. The original Broadway version of the musical won numerous awards including a 1950 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and ten different Tony Awards. This show has also won awards in multiple foreign countries.
Though South Pacific was performed by mainly a teenage cast, the plot dealt with a lot of adult issues. Jesse Marciniak, a senior who played Lieutenant Cable and has been involved in McNamara theater since his Freshman year, said “[Lt. Cable is] probably the most realistic character I’ve played.”
The main characters in the play were Emile De Becque, a Frenchman played by Dillon DiSalvo; Nellie Forbush, a woman deployed to an island in the South Pacific played by Jacqueline Wills; Lieutenant Cable, a military man on deployment to the island played by Jesse Marciniak; Bloody Mary, a Tonkinese woman who sells souvenirs to Americans played by Mylah Howard; and Liat, Bloody Mary’s daughter who falls in love with Lt. Cable, played by Lauren Turner.
Though all the actors and actresses are common students in high school and have busy schedules, the parts were acted with great respect and dedication. Despite the fact that this play is difficult to convey emotionally to the audience, especially since it deals with such difficult and current problems, the actors portrayed the parts well and clearly used a lot of talent and practice to get there.
In fact, the Bishop McNamara theater practiced for two months prior to the production of the play, even staying until nine o’clock every night the week before opening night.
“I thought it [the play] was very well acted on all levels,” boasted alumni Thomas DiSalvo, and even claimed it was, “better than Sweeny Todd,” the fall musical from the previous school
Throughout the play, Emile and Nellie fall in love and deal with the fact that Emile has two children born of a Polynesian woman.
Unfortunately, Nellie was brought up in a household where diversity was not accepted. Nellie and Emile get to know each other and Emile proposes. Nellie, however, cannot shake off her prejudices and declines the offer after finding out about his Polynesian children. In the mean time, Emile is asked to help with a military operation on an isolated island. Though at first he declines because he plans to marry Nellie, he later accepts, unbeknownst to her, after she calls off the engagement. While he is on the mission, Nellie looks for him, after realizing she still loves him. After learning he was on a military mission, she thinks he is dead, returns to Emile’s house and befriends his kids. While they are having dinner one night, Emile comes back home and surprises them. Nellie apologizes, the two resolve their differences, and plan to get married.
Meanwhile, Lieutenant Cable and Liat meet and immediately fall in love. However, when Lt. Cable is faced with either marrying her or allowing an alcoholic to marry her, he declines the proposal because of her ethnicity. Lt. Cable is also part of the same military mission as Emile, but dies from injuries he sustains from enemy attacks. Unfortunately, Liat is still very much in love with him and suffers much grief as a result of his death.
With this production, not all the talent was on stage. Throughout the play, musical numbers were sung by the actors, but the music was performed by the Bishop McNamara Pit Orchestra. Though the instrumental balance was at times rough and some instruments were a little pitchy, the overall quality of the music was enjoyable and was clearly practiced a lot.
The play was delivered beautifully, through song, dance, and dialog. Though there were a few minor technical problems, such as falling sets and dropped props, the overall outcome was a great success and was enjoyed immensely by the audience.
As Lauren Turner, a junior who played Liat, looked back on the experience, she said, “I think we worked very well as a cast. I grew as an actress and I look forward to the Spring play.”