The new 50-week touring revival of South Pacific that has a nonprofit tryout at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts in St Paul, MN, July 24-Aug. 12, will have Michael Nouri as its Emile de Becque once the commercial tour begins at the Palace Theatre in Columbus Sept. 25.
Barry and Fran Weissler, in association with Clear Channel Entertainment, produce the tour, which retains the Minnesota principals Erin Dilly (Nellie), Lewis Cleale (Cable), Armelia McQueen (Bloody Mary), David Warshofsky (Billis), Kisha Howard (Liat), James Judy and John Wilkerson.
In the St. Paul staging, opera star Richard Stilwell will play the French planter who falls for a Navy nurse on his adopted South Pacific island during World War II. Nouri, stepping into rehearsals after St. Paul, appeared on Broadway as King in Victor/Victoria.
The tour begins in Sept. 25 with the same creative team as the Ordway staging (a co-mounting with the Weisslers). Jerry Zaks (Guys and Dolls) is billed as "production consultant" on the staging directed by Scott Faris. (Robert Goulet, who toured with a production of South Pacific in the last decade, had been mentioned to play de Becque on tour, but that apparently is not happening.)
An ABC television movie musical version of the 1949 classic aired in spring 2001 starring Glenn Close (who also co produced) as nurse Nellie Forbush and Harry Connick Jr. as Lt. Cable, a rich Philadelphia-raised officer who falls for an island girl and struggles with his feelings of racism. Some cuts and changes were made for the TV version.
The company of the Ordway production includes John Wilkerson as Capt. Brackett, Jocef Baquilod as Jerome, Joreen Baquilod as Ngana and James Judy as Harbison. The ensemble includes Jody Ashworth, Melissa Rain Anderson, Frank Baiocchi, Justin Bohon, Kevin Covert, Lenny Daniel, Jessica Ferraro, Steve Hogle, Stacie Morgain Lewis, Tony Lord, Dan Maceyak, Emily Rozek, Roland Rusinek, Brandon Singleton, Dana Steer, Kate Strohbehn, Debra Walton and Shelby Rebecca Wong.
The 1949 Broadway musical with songs by composer Richard Rodgers and lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II was drawn from James Michener's "Tales of the South Pacific." The plot-specific numbers managed to leap into the public consciousness, and the Hit Parade: "Some Enchanted Evening," "Younger Than Springtime," "Bali H'ai," "A Wonderful Guy," and more. Mary Martin and Ezio Pinza were the original stars.
Director Scott Faris started his career as an actor and would go on to become a Broadway and touring stage manager. He was part of the production team that created Siegfried and Roy at the Mirage and he helmed EFX! starring Michael Crawford. He has also directed Chicago internationally.
South Pacific was considered groundbreaking for the commingling of an exotic wartime locale, its romantic plot and score and its serious exploration of racial bigotry, summed up in the Hammerstein lyric, "You've Got to Be Carefully Taught." That song is generally thought to be the reason the musical captured the Pulitzer Prize. Co-librettist Josh Logan's direction was hailed for its fluidity and sense of cinematic flow.
Ordway tickets range $24-$55. The Ordway is at 345 Washington Street in St. Paul. For information, call (651) 224-4222 or visit the website at www.ordway.org.
— By Kenneth Jones