Another night with “South Pacific”

South Pacific runs through Jan. 15 at ASU Gammage

It’s been more than fifty years since my mother-in-law saw a revival of “South Pacific” at the New York City Center. Neither my husband James nor his sister Julie had been born yet. And the work, which raises themes of racism, was much closer in time to everyday clashes between Americans taking different sides on race-related issues.

The musical, which is based on a 1947 James Michener novel titled “Tales of the South Pacific,” premiered in 1949 and won the Pulitzer Prize for drama the following year. A “South Pacific” film was released in 1958, which Glenna also enjoyed. But she wasn’t in the house for the “South Pacific” concert held at Carnegie Hall in 2005. That production starred Reba McEntire as Nellie and Brian Stokes Mitchell as Emile.

My daughter, Lizabeth, has long been a Broadway buff — and I think we may have watched the Tony Awards with James’ parents in 2008, the year a revival of “South Pacific” earned seven Tony Awards, including best musical revival. The ceremony that year included a cast performance of three songs from the show — “Nothing Like a Dame,” “Some Enchanted Evening,” and “A Wonderful Guy.”

The 2008 revival played at Lincoln Center’s Vivian Beaumont Theatre, where I saw “War Horse” with Lizabeth just last year. Its opening cast included Kelli O’Hara as Nellie, Paulo Szot as Emile and Matthew Morrison (now known to tweens as Mr. Schuester on FOX’s “Glee“) as Lt. Cable.

I first saw a live production of “South Pacific” with Lizabeth many years ago, during an earlier tour that included ASU Gammage in Tempe. The current tour of “Rodgers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific,” recommended for ages 8 and up, is being performed at ASU Gammage through Sun, Jan. 15.

Marcelo Guzzo (Emile) and Katie Reid (Nellie)

Both Glenna and Tom attended the opening night performance, so I asked Glenna to share a few thoughts about the show. With so many lawyers in the family, I wasn’t surprised by her description of the sets as “effective.” And though she felt some of the acting was a bit stiff, Glenna shared that she really enjoyed the music.

I suspected as much knowing that Emile is played by Marcelo Guzzo, who has a long list of opera credits. Glenna shared that Cathy Foy-Mahi’s performance as Bloody Mary was “really good.” She’s a Hawaiian actress whose stage credits include “Les Miserables” (Mdme. Thenardier) and television credits include ABC’s “Lost” and CBS’s “Hawaii 5-0.”

Folks who attend tonight’s performance can stay after the show for “TalkBack Thursday” with 99.9 KEZ — enjoying insights from cast and crew members. Families who prefer afternoon to evening performances have both Saturday and Sunday matinees to choose from.

When you attend, watch for 7-year-old Cole Bullock from New Jersey, who makes his professional theater production debut in the role of Jerome. Also 8-year-old Hannah Isabel Bautista, from San Francisco, who plays Bloody Mary’s assistant. Kids love seeing other children perform on stage.

Glenna tells me they’ve already got tickets for the Feb. 15-March 11 run of “Wicked” at ASU Gammage, but confessed that she’ll need to do a bit of homework before attending. I have a friend, Alan Handelsman, who can help with that. He’s seen “Wicked” eleven times in seven cities — and he’s written a guest post for the “Stage Mom” blog that’ll  go up later this month.

— Lynn

Note: Other shows coming to ASU Gammage this season include “Green Day’s American Idiot,” “La Cage Aux Folles,” and “Million Dollar Quartet.” Click here for details.

Coming up: Rock & roll — for a cause

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