On New Year's Eve and again on New Year's Day, Broadway Series South rang in the New Year with a lively and consistently entertaining National Tour of South Pacific handsomely produced by Troika Entertainment, LLC and briskly staged by director Dallett Norris. Scenic designer James Fouchard's versatile palm-tree façade easily adapted to various World War II military and civilian locales on a gorgeous South Pacific island occupied by the U.S. Navy and Marines, French planters, and native Polynesians during the early, discouraging days when the war effort in the Pacific seemed stalled into inactivity.
Lighting designer Jeff Crotier skillfully manipulated his instruments to simulate searing tropical days and magnificent tropical sunsets, and costume designer Jeanette Rousseau cleverly outfitted the cast in a colorful array of World War II military and civilian fashions, plus primitive Polynesian garb.
Musical director Tom Gallaher (piano), assistant musical director Angela Chan (synthesizer), Shane Nestruck (flute, clarinet), Jason Rambler (trumpet), Alasdair Money (cello), and Christian Dionne (drums, percussion) provide strong instrumental accompaniment on South Pacific's trademark tunes, including "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair," "There's Nothing Like a Dame," "Bali Ha'i," and "Some Enchanted Evening."
The original 1949 Broadway production of this marvelous message musical — with music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II and book by Hammerstein and Joshua Logan, based on Tales of the South Pacific by James A. Michener — won the second Pulitzer Prize for Drama for its bold confrontation and condemnation of many white Americans' mindless prejudice against anyone whose skin is darker than theirs. South Pacific also won nine Tony Awards®, including Best Musical, Book, and Score honors.
The current Troika Entertainment touring version of South Pacific stars Peak Kwinarian as expatriate French planter Emile de Becque and Holly Davis as U.S. Navy nurse and cockeyed optimist Ensign Nellie Forbush. Their unlikely December-May romance nearly founders when Nellie, a self-described hick from Little Rock, Arkansas, finds out that Emile had two children with the now-dead Polynesian woman who previously shared his bed.
Marine Lt. Joseph Cable (Joseph Spieldenner) likewise falls head over heels for Liat (Sumie Maeda), a beautiful Polynesian girl. But he balks at marrying her, because of what his family and friends in Philadelphia would say.
Kwinarian and Davis have great chemistry as de Becque and Forbush, and Spieldenner and Maeda are good as Cable and Liat. Kelly Rucker is a hoot as Liat's mother, shrewd island trader Bloody Mary; and Seneca Burr is highly amusing as Seabee and aspiring entrepreneur Luther Billis, whom Bloody Mary battles for dominance in the island's thriving trade in grass skirts, shrunken heads, boar's teeth, and other souvenirs.
All in all, Troika Entertainment's lively New Year's Eve production of South Pacific, which started at 7:30 P.M., provided a nice alternative way to celebrate the New Year. And Broadway Series South patrons were out in plenty of time to see the big acorn drop.