SOUTH PACIFIC; music and lyrics by Rodgers & Hammerstein; directed by Marcie Jacobsen; Hale Center Theater Orem, 225 W. 400 North; now through Nov. 24; tickets available at www.haletheater.org or 801-226-8600; running time, 2 hours 15 minutes with one intermission
OREM — Not to discredit the other cast of Hale Center Theater Orem's "South Pacific," but if you can, see the show on a night that features Dallyn Vail Bayles, Kelly Hennessey and Blake Barlow in the lead roles.
Bayles is magnificent playing his role as Emile de Becque with warmth, passion and a certain amount of internal sorrow singing his songs with power and finesse.
He and Hennessey — who plays the Navy nurse, Ensign Nellie Forbush, from "Small Rock, Arkansas" — have a tangible connection that's enjoyable to watch.
Hennessey is wonderful at playing a genuinely sweet woman surprised — and dismayed — to find herself in a relationship with a man who has mixed-race children. She's lively, fun and comes across as genuine whether she's washing that man right out of her hair or serving de Becque a whole pot of soup for dinner. Her Southern accent is pretty Dolly Parton, but "Thas aw right."
Barlow is delightful as Luther Billis. It's evident that he's an equity actor (as is Bayles) playing "101 pounds of fun" as "Honeybun," swiveling his hips and tattooed belly on the USO stage wearing a grass skirt, a coconut bra and a big, puckery-lipsticked smile.
All three leads carry this classic musical to a new height.
They are totally believable in their characters and segue into their multiple song opportunities without a hitch.
Others in the cast such as Bloody Mary played by Elisa Eklof Smith, Lt. Joseph Cable by Taylor Eliason (TThS), and Liat played by Rebecca Burroughs, have some bright moments, while a few are uneven in their approach.
Paul Hill (TThS) makes the most of his bit role as de Becque's house servant, Henry.
The children of de Becque get away with just being cute.
The set is clever with an ocean painted onto the background and simple pieces that come and go from scene to scene. There's a real, functioning shower that has to be a challenge — adding water to a set with working microphones — and a handmade bamboo wall that rises up to become a lean-to roof.
The costuming is obviously chosen, with care from Bloody Mary's ammunition-holder belt to the old-style swim clothes that stay nicely modest no matter what.
The outfits created for the USO show are especially original, made out of playing cards, magazine fans, mosquito netting and bottle caps.
For die-hard fans of the "South Pacific" stage and film show, all the traditional pieces are in place, including the language of the era.
For newbies, here's a chance to visit the island paradise and come away nicely rewarded.
Only a couple of questions: Why were the sound levels goofy at several points, and how can the crew make the map screen stay down when it should?
Also, why is the bold, cackling Bloody Mary beautiful when she's traditionally gap-toothed and rather homely — a woman who usually scares off every soldier she accosts?
Sharon Haddock is a professional writer with 35 years experience, 17 at the Deseret News. Her personal blog is at sharonhaddock.blogspot.com.
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