A classic story of love, conflict and prejudice in the middle of the Pacific Ocean came to life this week in the NKU Corbett Theatre.
Brought to campus by the NKU drama department under the direction of Mike King, a faculty member in the department of theatre and dance, South Pacific tells the love stories of Arkansas nurse Nellie and Lieutenant Joe Cable, both reluctant to pursue romance with the people of their dreams due to prejudice.
Set in a WWII encampment on a remote island, the strong leading characters play out their dramas bolstered by familiar musical numbers, supporting characters both large and small with huge personality and a thoroughly 40’s style costume wardrobe courtesy of Ronnie Chamberlain.
Written by Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein II, South Pacific was originally based on the novel “Tales of the South Pacific” by James A. Michener. South Pacific was a controversial musical in its time for the way it tackled issues of racial prejudice and interracial relationships King explained.
“I’m thrilled, I think it went great,” said King. “The cast and designers did a great job and everything went well. I think audiences really responded to it.”
In selecting plays and musicals for each season of the NKU drama department, King and other faculty form a committee and winnow down the group’s suggestions until the season comes together.
One of the main factors in including “South Pacific” was the “opportunities for students” it presented, King said.
“We also have a system that every few years we do certain types of shows. We do a Shakespeare show every other year and stuff like that,” said King. “This is a golden age musical, and the golden age for musicals was…from Rogers and Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma”, I think in 1943…up until the mid sixties or so. This is a great example of that.”
Having run from Oct. 24 to Nov. 3, even the Sunday matinee performance began with a full house of all ages ready to watch lead actors Allysun Mellick and Noah Berry, in the roles of Nellie Forbush and Lt. Joe Cable, play out the classic story.
Running just under three hours, the musical ran seamlessly under the direction of a production team that “saw all problems before they happened,” according to King.
The story is peppered with romantic and humorous musical numbers, such as “Some Enchanted Evening” and “There Is Nothing Like a Dame.” Moreover the musical appeals because of its strong message, King said.
“You could take the songs out and it’d still be a great play,” said King, “It’s very moving and has an important theme of dealing with racism and prejudice.”
The numerous elements involved in musicals can be difficult to balance, but King still loves to do them.
“I love musicals of all types,” King said. “Musicals are always a challenge because there are so many elements. There’s music, there’s dance, and then the acting, then the story that you’re trying to tell. All those things are part of it.”