South Pacific | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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South Pacific, Bog Theatre, at Metropolis Performing Arts Centre. Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein fuel the seemingly inevitable action in this noble "musical play" with very human impulses: to survive, to love, to make a difference. Four lovers never far from death even in the outlying islands of the Pacific theater live for the moment. Prejudiced nurse Nellie Forbush from Little Rock must accept the former marriage of her lover, middle-aged French planter Emile de Becque, who knows this romance offers a second chance in life. And the tolerance of idealistic Princeton grad Lieutenant John Cable is tested when he comes to adore Liat, Bloody Mary's beautiful island daughter. If these characters can't rise above their lesser selves, what's the point of the larger war they're fighting?

Intriguingly, this South Pacific is played against set designer Joey Wade's Japanese-style ink-and-color landscape: the dreamlike vista of Bali Ha'i belongs to both Japan and Polynesia. Reassuring in its directness, Sheldon Patinkin's sturdy staging takes the show's "no man is an island" ethos seriously: Steve Calzaretta's Emile, the best reason to see this revival, is as passionate in his dogged independence as in his regret (witness the heartbreaking "This Nearly Was Mine"). But there's little chemistry between Emile and Kimberly Jenkins's underwhelming but picture-perfect Nellie. Solidly focused work comes from Steve Tomlitz as a touchingly innocent Cable, Jaii Beckley as Mary, and Greg Teghtmeyer as ebullient soldier Luther Billis.

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