Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Broward Center: South Pacific (4 reviews)

The national tour of South Pacific opened at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts for a two week run on April 10, 2012.
A stunning reinvention produced by Lincoln Center Theater, South Pacific swept the 2008 Tony Awards, winning seven honors including Best Musical Revival and Best Director for Bartlett Sher.
Set on a tropical island during World War II, the musical tells the sweeping romantic story of two couples and how their happiness is threatened by the realities of war and by their own prejudices. The beloved score's songs include "Some Enchanted Evening," "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair," "This Nearly Was Mine" and "There is Nothin' Like a Dame."
Director Sarna Lapine re-created Bartlett Sher's staging with a cast that included Jennie Sophia, Marcelo Guzzo, Shane Donovan, Cathy Foy-Mahi, Christian Marriner, and Hsin-Yu Liao.

Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
This second national tour of South Pacific at the Broward Center envelops the willing participant in a sense that when the American Musical Theater is at its best – intelligently executed, sensitively acted and lushly produced – that it takes a back seat to no other art form.

A strong cast blessed with expressive voices and solid acting chops underscore the mature nature of the Rodgers and Hammerstein warhorse often sugar-coated in productions echoing the criminally sanitized film versions.

It isn’t just the sobering theme of prejudice; this cast dives into the adult emotions of complicated romantic relationship swirling against the backdrop of war and death.
Jennie Sophia is an endearing Nellie with a soprano that caresses the score and who doesn’t lose that Arkansas accent when she’s singing. Shane Donovan brings a reliable tenor to Lt. Cable... and for once, this is a manly battle-weary soldier rather than the usual practice of casting some dreamy-eyed swain.
Also worth praise is Cathy Foy-Mahi as the gimlet-eyed Bloody Mary always looking for an angle, Hsin-Yu Liao as the charmingly delicate Liat and Christian Marriner as the comical wheeler-dealer Luther Billis, this time with a non-regulation moustache and goatee...
But especially memorable is Marcelo Guzzo as Emile. Like most of his high-profile predecessors, Guzzo is a baritone from the opera world who has no experience in eight-shows-a-week musical theater and for whom English is not a first language. Which makes his success here so surprising and welcome. His rich voice romances the music and lyrics like a warm embrace.
The original staging for Lincoln Center by Bartlett Sher and Christopher Gattelli has been rejiggered into more two-dimensional blocking for a proscenium stage by Sarna Lapine and Joe Langworth. You yearn for that wide ranging movement we saw on the PBS Live At Lincoln Center broadcast in 2010. But it has a steady fluidity that never drags, although South Pacific remains and feels like a long show by contemporary standards. I’ve always thought the Thanksgiving Show scene should be cut by half.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
South Pacific, at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts this week and next, hails from the glory days of American musicals. The Pulitzer Prize winner is not, however, a relic... the gorgeous music, the compelling story, intriguing characters and timeless themes are undiminished in their power to move an audience.

The touring version was put together by the assistants to the Broadway creative team, and they’ve done the original proud...  The impact of a far-smaller orchestra isn’t as great, but NETworks (the producer of this non-Equity tour) hasn’t stinted on the powerful voices that the Rodgers and Hammerstein score demands.
The dashing Emile, for instance, is played by Uruguayan baritone Marcelo Guzzo, whose lush and booming voice would doubtless reach the tip-top of the balcony without a microphone. Though new to musical theater acting, the handsome Guzzo conveys the passion Emile feels for Jennie Sophia’s Nellie Forbush...
The slender, lovely, upbeat Sophia is fine as Navy nurse Nellie, initially subdued but blossoming as the show goes on. Emotionally, she turns on a dime... Nellie’s journey involves one of the show’s toughest themes — the crushing foolishness of prejudice — and Sophia handles that artfully.
Donovan’s voice is tender as he sings Younger Than Springtime to Liat, withering as he dissects prejudice in You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught. Director Sarna Lapine lets the two get away with acting that is too melodramatic, however.
The show’s two comic characters definitely deliver, Cathy Foy-Mahi as the delightfully conniving and insulting Bloody Mary, Christian Marriner as supreme huckster Luther Billis.
Roger Martin reviewed for miamiartzine:
The music is entrancing, (a nine piece orchestra electronically enhanced), the singing and dancing fair to middling, and the acting ranges from opera ham to road show routine.

Unfortunately there's simply no sparkle to the show, no feeling for the era.  Inexperienced non-union actors?  Directorial problems, perhaps?   (“You move there and you cross here.”)  Sarna Lapine recreated Bartlett Sher's direction from the 2008 Lincoln Center production on which this version is based.

As in the original, this version has an opera singer in the role of Emile, the plantation owner who woos Navy nurse Nellie Forbush. Baritone Marcelo Guzzo, who plays Emile, is a handsomely strapping man with a big, booming voice.  And I couldn't get away from the sense that he couldn't wait to unleash that voice.   Acting be damned.   Jennie Sophia, who plays Nellie, sings well but because the two prefer (or have been directed thusly) to break the fourth wall, rather than sing to each other, there is little chemistry between the two lovers.

Tenor Shane Donovan plays Lt. Joseph Cable, the Marine who loves the native girl.  He's well cast as the young hero and quietly believable.
Two good things came out of the evening, however.   One, just sitting there, listening to those songs once more, and two, the determination to reread Michener's wonderful Tales of the South Pacific.
Beau Higgins reviewd for BroadwayWorld:
The National Tour based on the Tony award winning Lincoln Center revival of a few years back, brings us a SOUTH PACIFIC I only wish Rodgers and Hammerstein could see.  And yes of course, I wish all my readers could and will see it too.  For this is a SOUTH PACIFIC that is as bewitching as it is beautiful and from the moment the overture started, I loved it, loved it, loved it!
Jennie Sophia is a marvelous Nellie Forbush.  Her singing is as beautiful as she looks, and she is truly heartbreaking when battling with the racist demons within her.
Last night (Marcello) Guzzo seemed to have a few moments of difficulty when he began to sing, making us think that we may have an Emile de Becque who would be gargling the score rather than singing it.  Fear not.  Within a few moments Mr. Guzzo got his bearings, and his glorious voice and finely tuned performance enveloped us and he truly made last night’s performance of SOUTH PACIFIC, “some enchanted evening.”     
Lt. Cable is beautifully performed by the very sexy and very talented Shane Donovan.  A fine singer and actor, it is unquestionable why Liat would fall in love with him at first sight.
Comic relief is largely supplied by the assorted nurses and sailors who inhabit SOUTH PACIFIC.  They are led by Christian Marriner as Luther Billis, who was fun in a rather understated performance of a part often played over the top.
Cathy Foy-Mahi comes close to stealing the show as Bloody Mary.  It is she who gets to tell us of the wonders of BALI HA’I.  Her delivery of this song, and her whole performance is absolutely lovely.  Hers is a Bloody Mary of elegance and heart and Ms. Foy-Mahi is nothing short of beguiling.
The national tour of South Pacific plays at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts through April 22, 2012.

No comments:

Post a Comment