Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires
Regional Reviews by Zander Opper
I am happy to report that the Ivoryton Playhouse production comes up aces in all these departments. Led by beautiful performances by the two leads, Adrianne Hick and David Pittsinger, the large cast is uniformly wonderful. Also, this South Pacific looks so good that you might feel that you have been transported to another world. And director/choreographer David Edwards keeps the show moving smoothly throughout and seems to have brought out the best in everyone involved. By all means, rush to see Ivoryton Playhouse's South Pacific, for it is one of the most satisfying evenings of theatre I have seen in a long time.
The 2008 Tony Award-winning Broadway revival of South Pacific at Lincoln Center still stands in my mind as the greatest revival of a musical that I have ever experienced. So, any new production of South Pacific must stand against the memory of that Broadway revival for me. Of course, no regional theatre staging can be expected to match what was accomplished in a Broadway production, but Ivoryton Playhouse's South Pacific comes pretty close.
One of the strongest assets of this production is the superb acting by all five leads. Adrianne Hick's performance of Nellie Forbush is simply astonishing, and she brings so many nuances to the characteras well as a terrific singing voice and sprightly dancingthat it is truly breathtaking. She is brilliantly matched by her costar David Pittsinger as Emile de Becque; his operatic singing and strong acting are awe-inspiring. Indeed, the scenes between the two performers rank as highlights in this production, but they both shine in individual numbers, as well. Adrianne Hick is especially splendid singing "A Wonderful Guy" and David Pittsinger's soaring "This Nearly Was Mine" will break your heart.
Also doing fine work are Patricia Schuman as Bloody Mary and Peter Carrier as Lt. Joseph Cable. Patricia Schuman is terrific in both "Bali Ha'i" and "Happy Talk" and she is suitably exotic, as Bloody Mary must be. Peter Carrier delivers the most searing "You've Got to Be Carefully Taught" that I have ever experienced, and he is also able to unearth the simple pleasures of "Younger Than Springtime." Finally, William Selby is a delightful Luther Billis and comes close to stealing the show in his comedic scenes and leads the group of soldiers in a full-out, raucous rendition of "There is Nothin' Like a Dame."
In addition to the exceptional acting (which is grand right down to the smallest role), director David Edwards works wonderfully well with his design team, with scenic designer Daniel Nischan, costume designer Lenore Grunko, and lighting designer Marcus Abbott managing to transform the Ivoryton Playhouse stage into a sumptuous tropical island, with glorious backdrops. Also, musical director Michael McAssey expertly leads the fine offstage band. Director/choreographer David Edwards is a real master in his overall staging of the show and he brings out all the glories that South Pacific has to offer.
Ivoryton Playhouse's South Pacific is the rare case where all elements come together perfectly, from the acting to the look of the show to the song and dance numbers. This production manages to get everything right and ranks as an absolute must-see.
South Pacific continues performances at Ivoryton Playhouse in Ivoryton, CT through July 26, 2015. For tickets, please visit www.ivorytonplayhouse.org or call the box office at (860) 767-7318.