From the moment you step into the theatre for Scarborough Music Theatre’s production of South Pacific, it feels as though you are walking back in time and right into this Second World War drama.
This is because the cast and crew went above and beyond simply building a set for this show. Instead, they created 12 massive, hand-made palm trees that line the perimeter of the theatre and decorate the stage, as well as several authentic island-inspired set pieces, transporting everyone into the ironic beauty and hardship that was wartime in the beautiful South Pacific.
Soldiers and nurses live side by side in this 1943 musical with music and lyrics by Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein II, and book by Hammerstein II and Joshua Logan, that not only depicts the realities of life in volatile and unpredictable wartime, but also the inevitable love stories that took place.
In this story, nurse Nellie (Jill McMillan) falls in love with a rich French widower, Emile (Mark Tingle), who unbeknownst to her has two young, half Polynesian children, Ngana and Giselle (Venus Crouse, Isabelle Gu).
There is also the love story between Lt. Joe Cable (Rob Murphy) and a young island girl, Liat (Catherine Uy Huculak), whose mother, souvenir-seller, Bloody Mary (Regina Simon), has befriended the Americans, and has chosen Joe to marry her daughter.
This show has several uplifting and fun musical numbers such as Nothing like a Dame, where the G.I.’s lament about missing females; and Honey Bun, a colourful act that Nellie and company perform as part of a Thanksgiving variety show they host.
There are also great comedic characters such as Luther Billis (Jason Silzer), who brings the laughter with his coconut bra ensemble and cheeky antics and Bloody Mary, who shines with her funny one-liners as well as beautiful musical numbers like Bali Ha’i.
But there are also the more serious scenes with Capt. George Brackett (Jim Hyslop) and Commander William Harbison (Craig Estrella), planning dangerous mission strategies and rallying the men to pull them off.
And while the love stories have their sweet and tender moments in musical numbers such as This is How it Feels, a beautiful duet by McMillan and Tingle, and Younger Than Springtime, sung by Murphy and Huculak; the theme of racial prejudice is also woven into the plot because of the taboo nature of interracial marriage and families of that time period.
This leads to Nellie re-thinking her relationship with Emile, and Joe hesitating to marry Liat. This aside, there’s a lot more to the story, and it’s truly a fun and entertaining snapshot of how people persevered and made life bearable during wartime.
The set and costumes create the perfect island atmosphere, and the collective performance is polished, light-hearted and easy to watch.
McMillan has a charismatic stage presence and wows the audience with her natural portrayal of nurse Nellie. She also has a unique singing voice that was lovely in solos and duets, especially with Tingle, who plays a romantic and likeable Emile.
There is so much talent in this show it would be impossible to list the particulars in detail, but this show is just a delight to watch and an enjoyable performance.
Note: this musical is about three hours long, so make sure you are ready to settle in for awhile.
South Pacific runs until May 18, 8 p.m., at the Scarborough Village Theatre, 3600 Kingston Rd. Matinees are sold out so one has been added on May 11 at 2 p.m. Regular tickets are $25. For tickets call 416-267-9292 or order online at www.theatrescarborough.com