Marc Koeck as Lt. Cable and Jen Chia as Liat
South Pacific has been around since 1949, when it debuted on Broadway, but its music–and its message–is timeless. This is why theaters across the country continue to stage the production to the delight of audiences. In the case of The Wick Theatre and Costume Museum in Boca Raton, the musical has been so popular that the producers had to add showtimes so that no one would be turned away.
The demand is justified. The Wick’s version of the classic play with music and lyrics by Rodgers and Hammerstein is packed with energy and cheeky wit. And the singing is worthy of a standing ovation.
The play takes place in the South Pacific during World War II and follows the story of a young American nurse, Nellie Forbush (Adrianne Hick), and French expat Emile de Becque (Nat Chandler). Emile confesses he’s adored Nellie since he saw her at a party (“Some Enchanted Evening”), and she allows herself to fall for him despite their age and cultural differences.
The tide turns, however, when Nellie meets Emile’s children from an earlier marriage to a Polynesian woman. Nellie can’t accept this part of him, so she walks away from the relationship. Meanwhile, young Marine lieutenant Joe Cable (Marc Koeck) falls in love with the young daughter of Polynesian entrepreneur Bloody Mary (Amy Jo Phillips) but refuses to marry her on account of her skin color. The two stories become fundamental to the play’s message about racism, which was especially rampant during wartime. Cable’s performance of “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught” (to hate and fear) underscores the notion of prejudice being deeply ingrained in certain societies.
Though there are serious parts, there’s plenty of levity as well. The Seabees, particularly their leader in mayhem, Luther Billis (Michael Iannucci), deliver rollicking performances of familiar numbers like “There is Nothin’ Like a Dame” and “Honey Bun.” And the classic “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair” by Nellie and the nurses is so fun and spirited you’ll be humming it all night and the next morning too.
South Pacific runs through Feb. 14 at The Wick. Get tickets while you can; it’s guaranteed to be “some enchanted evening.”
Nat Chandler as Emile de Becque