NEW BERLIN - The haunting melodies of "Bali Ha'i" and "Some Enchanted Evening" plus the jaunty "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair" will fill the New Berlin West PAC as the school presents the beloved musical "South Pacific."
"We really chose 'South Pacific' because of the music," said Judy Smith, artistic director and WestPAC manager. "It's such beautiful music and beautiful lyrics" by Rodgers and Hammerstein.
A strenuous effort was made to make the sets as beautiful as the music with vibrant colors and tropical scenes, she said.
"I'm so thrilled," with the way they turned out, Smith said, especially since she took a peek via Google at the sets in the 2008 Broadway revival.
"I looked at what Broadway did, and it was very similar," she said.
World War II
"South Pacific" debuted in 1949 and now almost 70 years later, Smith had a real challenge to find authentic World War II uniforms for the cast. But where there is a will.
"I found a military surplus store downtown and bought it out of Navy uniform shirts," she said. They are the real deal, too, she said. The show had to rent uniforms for the generals and commanders.
"And they look awesome," she said.
Dancing was another challenge. The show has a lot of it. A choreographer from New York choreographed the show gratis, thanks to the school's partnership with Anita's Dance Center in Muskego that paid the cost.
The kids have been hoofing it for months. "We are really pushing them," Smith said, and the dance numbers have come together.
Casting a challenge
Because of the show's themes about racism and inter-racial marriage, casting was another problem. For example, one of the children who is supposed to be half Polynesian actually has red hair and freckles.
Smith's solution was to fall back to the lesson that she teaches her students: "Theater is all about relationships."
So, this show is an example of the color-blind casting that Smith learned when she was a theater student. She remembers as a student attending a Milwaukee Repertory Theater performance of "A Christmas Carol" where one of the very English Cratchit sons was black.
Dealing with the racial issues in the production and even in the play was a growing experience for the middle and high school cast, she said. They learned to focus on relationships, rather than on color.
The plot centers on an American nurse named Nellie (played by Savannah Rasmussen) stationed on a South Pacific island during World War II, who falls in love with a middle-aged expatriate French plantation owner, Emile, (Zachary Karolek) but struggles to accept his mixed-race children. A secondary romance, between a U.S. lieutenant (Hunter Leathers) and a young Tonkinese woman (Srishti Rathore) explores his fears of the social consequences should he marry his Asian sweetheart.
Supporting characters include a comic petty officer (Evan McKenzie) and the Tonkinese girl's mother (Trina Farrey).
“South Pacific” will be presented at the New Berlin West PAC, 18695 W. Cleveland Ave., at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Feb. 10-11, with a 10 a.m.performance Feb. 10, and a 2 p.m. matinee Sunday, Feb. 12. Reserved tickets are $12, general, $9 for seniors, $7 for students, and $5 for ages 10 and younger, except for the 10 a.m. matinee where all seats are $2 and seating is general. Tickets may be ordered online at nbexcellence.org/community/westpac.cfm