The Muny always does solid shows. But every now and then, the stars align in the skies over Forest Park and magic appears on the legendary stage.
This week, for the 10th time, The Muny has produced an eloquent and winsome production of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “South Pacific.” I obviously haven’t seen all the presentations, but I’d be hard pressed to believe any were superior to what is currently on stage.
The first mark of this show’s excellence is the staging, simple yet very evocative and beautifully nostalgic. The stage is full and beautiful, with perfect accents, and nicely uncluttered.
Ben Davis is an effective, understated Emile de Becque with a commanding and adventurous voice, although his costumes make him look less like an exiled French plantation owner and more like someone who has leaped from the pages of an Eddie Bauer catalogue. Davis sells the role beautifully, always convincing as a man with a past who is searching for a future.
Laura Michelle Kelly is flawless as Ensign Nellie Forbush. She is loveable and nicely loony. She and Davis have concert quality voices and compliment each other wonderfully.
Loretta Ables Sayre as Bloody Mary, who has the gift of the number “Bali Ha’i” to offer up every night, is a charmer and an endearing comic element. Josh Young as the troubled Lt. Cable, Tally Sessions as the undisciplined Luther Billis and James Anthony as the beleaguered Capt. Brackett are all sterling examples of this company’s total dedication to perfect casting. The 31 piece Muny orchestra, under the direction of Brad Haak, enriches this landmark Rodger’s & Hammerstein score and lyrics magnificently. Direction by Rob Ruggiero shows a real understanding of this show’s delicate nature and wistful longings.
If there ever was a show that had it all, it’s “South Pacific.” It’s music is timeless. It’s story has so many things to relish. And this week, you can depend on The Muny to show you “South Pacific” better and more endearing than you have ever experienced before.