'South Pacific' for weekend


September 30, 2010

A cast of 31 residents, some new to theater, some veteran, sing the World War II-era stories of Rogers and Hammerstein's 1949 musical "South Pacific" Oct. 1, 2 and 3 at the Chilkat Center for the Arts.

Lynn Canal Community Players presents the performance.

Show times are 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets are available at the Babbling Book or at the door, and cost $7 for children or seniors, $12 for adults, and $35 for families. The show runs about three hours.

Show director Mark Sebens said the hard-working cast has excelled with the famous script and music. "They really are wonderful. Everyone wants this to be an excellent show. I think people will be thrilled with it."

An orchestra of piano , trombone, flute, clarinet, baritone horn, concertina and drums, directed by Debra Schnabel, accompanies vocal performances of the musical's famous songs. "It's big music. It's way fun," Sebens said.

Sebens has acted in Haines theater productions for 25 years, but is a first-time director. Brother Tod Sebens, a seasoned director, is the production's co-director, providing advice, helping with blocking, sound, lights, and working individually with actors.

Dwight Nash, who makes his theatrical debut Friday as leading man Emile de Becque, said participating in the musical has been all-consuming, but rewarding. "It's been fascinating. I was quite nervous at first, but that's gone away. It's amazing to see what has come together in a short time."

Nash said skills he learned singing parts besides the melody with local a capella group Men of Note helped prepare him to tackle the musical. Being married to a musician and music teacher also helped, he said. "I would never have done it without Nancy (Nash)."

Local museum director Jerrie Clarke, who plays bawdy Tonkinese trader Bloody Mary, said she had lots of experience acting, including locally, but not with musicals. "It's been great. I haven't sung seriously in a long time."

Clarke said she worked on strengthening her voice for the show by practicing with taped voice lessons she'd recorded with a teacher in the 1990s.

Margaret Sebens, a 35-year community theater veteran, plays the lead female part of Nellie Forbush, de Becque's love interest. She said while the musical's cast included many seasoned performers, it was exciting to see so many new faces participating in the production, and said audiences were in for an "enchanted evening."

"A lot of people associate (South Pacific) with the songs. But the story itself is a beautiful story of love. Audiences should come for the music and for the story.

"It's fun doing this one because I know it's going to touch a lot of people in the audience."

The musical "South Pacific" is based on James Michener's novel "Tales of the South Pacific" and set during the Second World War.

"South Pacific" won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1950, and many of the songs have become standards worldwide.

Director Mark Sebens described the story as ostensibly about two sets of lovers, but said the play also tackles the thorny issue of racial prejudice. "That was different for the 1950s."

The musical opens by introducing a budding romance between de Becque, a French plantation owner, and Forbush, a U.S. Navy nurse stationed on the island.

Forbush's affection for de Becque is shaken when she learns he has two biracial children with a Polynesian woman, now dead. Unable to overcome her prejudice, Forbush determines to break off the relationship.

Meanwhile, the story follows the comic antics of bored Navy sailors led by Luther Billis who lament the lack of women on the island - Navy nurses, as military officers, are off-limits - and hatch plots to get to the nearby island of Bali Ha'i.

The island's single non-Navy female inhabitant, nicknamed Bloody Mary, trades trinkets and flirts with the sailors.

When Billis convinces officer Joe Cable to journey to Bali Ha'i, Bloody Mary plays matchmaker by introducing Cable to her beautiful young daughter Liat.

Cable and Liat fall in love, but Cable breaks off the romance because he is concerned about what his friends and family will think about him marrying a darkskinned woman.

When Cable and de Becque are sent on a dangerous spying mission to learn the position of Japanese war boats, Cable is killed and de Becque goes missing.

Forbush witnesses Liat's grief over Cable's death, and reconsiders her rejection of de Becque. Forbush decides to put aside her prejudices, and develops a warm relationship with de Becque's young children in his absence.

When de Becque returns home unexpectedly, Forbush is overjoyed and agrees to marry him.

Clarke said the musical's ending provided a satisfying resolution to the white couple's romance, it left some troubling question marks about Liat's fate. "There is no resolution for the Polynesian girl in the play."

Mark Sebens said South Pacific remained beloved because it combined light-hearted and entertaining songs and dialogue with more serious themes.

"The story is fun and light but still has serious messages come across," Sebens said. "It will move you to tears, guaranteed. And it has lots of comic stuff, so if you're not laughing, you're deaf, dumb, or otherwise."


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