News Column

Bush, cast deliver standout production of musical 'South Pacific'

July 18, 2014

By William Kerns, Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, Texas



July 18--Bush, cast deliver standout production of 'South Pacific'

My favorite programs, or playbills, are those that provide theatrical biographies of varied lengths for those working in the play's cast or crew.

Paid advertisements certainly serve a valid purpose within those pages; no one ever will deny that. Yet from the first notes sung by the stars in the Lubbock Moonlight Musical's July production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "South Pacific," theatergoers will want to know much more about its splendid cast, particularly Greg Wascoe, who delivers a powerful and, at the same time, gorgeous vocal performance as plantation owner Emile DeBecque.

This is no mere undergraduate lending his voice.

A charming comedienne blessed with an ability to mix naive charisma with knock-'em-dead vocals, Candice Aipperspach would appear to be the perfect romantic counterpart for DeBecque, but for that one trait that Americans -- and oh yes, a great many others -- brought to wars, in this case the second World War.

Specifically, prejudice, bigotry, hatred, take your choice.

Based on James Michener's hefty novel "Tales of the South Pacific," with the play's book and lyrics co-written by Oscar Hammerstein and Joshua Logan, and then placed to melodies created by Richard Rodgers, the 1947 play actually focuses upon two potential romances blooming in the beauty of a South Pacific island in 1945.

Aipperspach portrays a Navy nurse, a self-proclaimed hick named Nellie from the sticks of Little Rock, Arkansas.

She finds herself charmed right out of her shoes by an older gentleman who has unveiled to her the passion of a completely different world of natural beauty -- one in which all that matters is love.

To a point, anyway.

Debecque also owns an island that the United States Navy desperately wants to use to spy on Japanese troop movements. But he knows that the Japanese have left him and his family alone only because DeBecque has maintained an obvious and visible sense of neutrality.

Of course, Ensign Nellie Forbush has mixed feelings when her commanding officers suggest to her that she use her romantic relationship with DeBecque not only to spy on him, but also to attempt to convince him to work for the American military.

Also soon arriving at the Naval base is handsome lieutenant Joe Cable, played by Keegan Peck. He arrives ready to finish his dangerous assignment of pinpointing Japanese movements from a nearby island -- he also is fluent in the language -- and then hurrying back to Philadelphia to marry his fiancee.

But there's just one tiny problem.

He is almost immediately smitten by a gorgeous, young Polynesian woman, Liat (Desiree Soto), whose single mother -- Bloody Mary, very well acted by Annie Nichols -- is a much-liked island hustler who also helps American servicemen obtain everything from their cleaning to grass skirts and island souvenirs.

The play was made into a feature-length film in 1958. Like the Broadway hit, the film attracted lines primarily because of the great songs by Rodgers and Hammerstein.

Aipperspach is a delight singing "A Cockeyed Optimist" and especially "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair" and the more positive "I'm In Love with a Wonderful Guy."

However, theatergoers may depart wishing they possessed recordings of Wascoe singing a number of songs, none more than "Some Enchanted Evening" and his heartbreaking "This Nearly was Mine."

The latter tune arrives after he is jilted by Nellie once she learns that the two cute children at his plantation were fathered by Emile with a now deceased Polynesian wife.

The play's very best song -- not its prettiest by a long shot, but its most important, is "You've Got to Be Carefully Taught," which Cable learns just in time.

Peck's Cable sings defiantly:

"You've got to be taught to be afraid

Of people whose eyes are oddly made,

And people whose skin is a diff'rent shade,

You've got to be carefully taught.

You've got to be taught before it's too late,

Before you are six or seven or eight,

To hate all the people your relatives hate,

You've got to be carefully taught."

Meanwhile, a review of this particular production would not be complete without additional praise for Travis Burge as Luther Bilis, the hilarious and often crafty seaman singing lead on "There Is Nothing Like a Dame." Nichols is sensational as Bloody Mama, singing "Bali Hai," and Peck provides the romantic "Younger than Springtime" during an intimate moment.

Directed with a firm touch by Jim Bush and choreographed by Kyla Olson, this is, without a doubt, one of the better productions staged in some time by Lubbock Moonlight Musicals.

william.kerns@lubbockonline.com

--766-8712

Follow William on Twitter

@AJ_WilliamKerns

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Visit the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal (Lubbock, Texas) at www.lubbockonline.com

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Source: Lubbock Avalanche-Journal (TX)


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