South Pacific surprises with in-depth story

After controversial performances, drama opts for family classic

BY SHIMANA BOSE —

Shorewood Drama presented the WWII musical, South Pacific, on May 19, 20 and 21.

Walking into the lobby, the crowd was a combination of excited drama parents, community members, students and families with young children, all ready to see a family friendly classic. As I looked for my seat, I saw many children under 10 running up and down the aisles; something I obviously didn’t see in more controversial productions.

Devoid of any prior knowledge to what I was about to see, I was unsure of what to expect. I pictured it to be a classic family friendly, light-hearted and carefree production about a group of fun soldiers looking for romance. However, within the first few numbers, I was pleasantly surprised by the romantic, yet serious, themes of the story.

With the fantastic orchestra pit, costumes, French dialogue and performances by the ensemble and main cast, I felt that I had been transported to a different time and place.

The musical tells the tale of nurse Nellie Forbush, played by Ella Curran, senior, as she falls for a French plantation owner, Emile de Becque, played by Zach Lipo Zovic, senior, on an island in the south pacific during WWII. With energetic ensemble numbers, like “There is Nothin’ Like a Dame” and “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair,” as well as slow and emotional performances like “Some Enchanted Evening” and “Younger Than Springtime,” the show brings a classic production to the community.

The show began with the touching “Dites-Moi” sung by Ngana, played by Sofia Hansen-Cardona, seventh grade, and Jerome, played by Matthew Aldana, third grade. Their playful number set the stage for Curran’s humorous and lively performance of “A Cockeyed Optimist.” The mood changed again with Lipo Zovic’s performance of “Some Enchanted Evening,” setting the scene with romantic yet peaceful tones.

south pacific ella zach
(Olivia Poole) Ella Curran and Zach Lipo Zovic, seniors, sing a romantic duet in South Pacific. While the musical was romantic and upbeat, it also tackled serious themes.

In the second scene, “Bloody Mary” shifts the mood once again from a slow romance to playful and lively with the ensemble’s choreography and singing. The show changes again and again, and ends on a romantic note with “Finale Ultimo”; a happily ever after.

Throughout the show there was plenty of light-hearted humor, merriment (especially from the sailors) and colorful swimsuits. However, as a classic, South Pacific still remains rooted in a different time, with themes of racism and war preventing a completely ‘candy-colored’ experience. Throughout the play we see the bigotry toward race towards the pacific islanders, as well as the actualities of war. This brings a balance to the romantic aspects of the show.

As director Joe King writes in the director’s notes, “Classical musicals are classics for a reason … They are beautiful and charming and were groundbreaking in their own time.”

While South Pacific is unlike the more ‘progressive’ plays the drama department is known for, such as American Idiot, Cabaret or Spring Awakening, it still maintains a level of controversy, and is open to criticism, which is necessary, classic or not.

The performance of “You’ve Got to be Carefully Taught” by Lt. Joe Cable, played by Ryan Groeschel, sophomore, highlights themes of racism, and even analyzes the roots of racism and bigotry. After such merry numbers, the last thing I expected was such a deep and thought-provoking performance, one whose ideas can be applicable even today.   

The play also touched on the casualties of war, and the effect it has on those left behind.

In addition, to raise awareness, the performance also utilized the themes and setting during WWII to benefit the community by raising funds for veterans.

I was pleasantly surprised by South Pacific, as I was expecting a jovial army romance.  By the end, however, I felt South Pacific was an ebullient and cheerful, yet thought-provoking, performance which brought many unexpected messages to the stage.

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