REVIEW: Rodgers & Hammerstein’s ‘South Pacific,’ The Battalion of Talent Assembled at La Mirada is Downright Astonishing

Set on two islands during World War II, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s South Pacific tells us the story of Emile de Becque, a French plantation owner who falls in love with Nellie Forbush, an American navy nurse stationed on the island. Everything seems perfect until Nellie’s deep-rooted prejudices threaten to end the couples impetuous romance.

Based on James A. Michener’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, the show also features a secondary love-story between U.S. lieutenant Joseph Cable and a young Tonkinese woman named Liat. Their relationship is also impacted by racial discrimination leaving the couple at a crossroads.

McCoy Rigby’s latest achievement is a testament to its five-star cast and creative team. The battalion of talent assembled at La Mirada is downright astonishing. And much like the Navy’s objective in the story, the entire undertaking was a huge success!

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Stephanie Wall and John Cudia in Rodgers & Hammerstein’s South Pacific

The cast is led by John Cudia as Emile de Becque and Stephanie Renee Wall as Ensign Nellie Forbush. Cudia, who previously portrayed the title role in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera brings his signature tenor to this production as well. Wall, a local favorite has played everyone from a nanny with a cheery disposition to a fierce ice queen. This time her sweet Southern charm is what wows audiences.

SoCal native Matt Rosell steps into the role of Lt. Joseph Cable. Rosell captivates with his striking presence and unrivaled vocals. The only disappointment was his characters offstage demise near the end of Act II.

Hawaii’s own Jody Kimura portrays Bloody Mary, Liat’s mother and the island’s big-time operator. Though Kimura is a La Mirada newcomer, she is no stranger to the part. She played Bloody Mary on both the South Pacific national and UK tours. And straight outta McCoy Rigby’s Cabaret is Jeff Skowron as Seabee Luther Billis. This comedy genius might be the hardest working actor in theatre. His high-energy performance was a pure delight!

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Matt Rosell and Jody Kimura in Rodgers & Hammerstein’s South Pacific

Musical director Brent Crayon recreates Rodgers & Hammerstein’s timeless score effortlessly. Some of the highlights include “Some Enchanted Evening,” “There Is Nothing Like a Dame, “Bali Ha’i,” and my personal favorite “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair,” where a functional shower by props designer Joel Markus create the perfect effect.

Director Glenn Casale redefines the time-honored R&H classic, while paying homage to the original. Scenic designer Robert Kovach paints us a picturesque tropical setting and Jared A. Sayeg adds the right mood lighting to shine on this truly enchanted evening at the theatre.

Rodgers & Hammerstein’s South Pacific is playing at the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts now through May 13, 2018. Tickets are available by calling the box office at (562) 944-9801 or (714) 994-6310 or Order Online.

Photos courtesy of Austin Bauman.

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