Care to experience a toe-tapping musical theatre classic with a first-rate professional cast and a 38-piece orchestra playing the show’s fully orchestrated rhythms of the Big Band Era in faithful detail? Bebop on up to Oklahoma City April 24 – 27 to enjoy Oklahoma City Rep and Oklahoma City University’s co-production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “South Pacific”. It could renew your belief in the power of love.
NYC-based Director Len Pfluger on the City Rep/OCU co-production: “The score of this classic is brilliantly composed – its music, even as underscore, drives the mood of scenes and inspires performers and audience alike to experience the key emotions evoked. With our full 38-piece orchestra, we honor the rhythms and tempos of the original Swing/Big Band sound from 1949. Our production promises an evening of enchantment for all, not just for some.”
With musical numbers written for the voices and talents of the era’s top Broadway stars — Ezio Pinza and Mary Martin — the 1949 musical “South Pacific” soared to its destiny as a classic hit. Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein’s original production won ten Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Score and Best Libretto and the 1950 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The original cast album became a bestselling record of the 1940’s. In 2008, its Broadway revival ran for 996 performances and won seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical Revival. Nothing much more fun to watch on stage than an exuberant bevy of gorgeous WWII nurses in ‘beach attire’ and handsome, cocky, strapping sailors erupt in carefree energized song and dance production numbers of “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair“ and “There Is Nothing Like a Dame“.
Yet a dark, uneasy theme of prejudice lurks beneath the show’s surface and emerges in unexpected ways. The theme drives the plot and reflects the show’s creators’ commitment to honoring the full social commentary of James Michener’s award-winning 1947 book Tales of the South Pacific, in spite of opposition to its inclusion. Len Pfluger, the New York City-based director engaged to direct the Oklahoma City production, describes the alterations and his response: “The show’s archives reveal that Rodgers and Hammerstein altered some of the more confrontational lines to appease the powers that be. There were major towns in the South that refused to mount the production, anyway, as it showed inter-racial marriage in a positive light. We are meeting the social issues aspect head on in this production and have restored the material. It doesn’t change the show in a negative way. It enhances it by providing a cliffhanger at the end of Act One. The lead character Nellie, a sweet girl that everyone loves, reveals that she is a racial bigot. Watching her change across Act Two, grow in love, compassion and acceptance, has much more impact in contrast to her shocking, limited world view in Act One, as a result. Mixed race people can marry today in the United States (they couldn’t everywhere in 1949); but we still deal with racial inequity. “South Pacific” made a bold statement in 1949, and it feels just as relevant today.”
Donald Jordan, Founding Artistic Director of City Rep Theatre, helms the high stress job of Stage Manager for this co-production. “I have moments when it feels, and sounds, like my New York City days, ‘ he laughs. “With a cast of 40 singing/dancing actors on stage and 38 musicians in the pit, this has been a real joy and a great creative challenge…as somebody said…. Man’s vision should exceed his grasp, else what’s a heaven for…” The cast ranges from callow university students in OCU’s Wanda L. Bass School of Music to national touring professionals, long-time Equity members. Director Pfluger praises the efforts and talents of his university cast members and looks forward to the one scheduled matinee that will be an understudy performance. His respect radiates for the young performers. “The understudy for Emile, Kyle Grey, is just 21 years old; but when he’s working with his own age group I find him as inspirational as our Equity lead Christopher Carl, and he’s simply the finest out there.”
Having the rich blend of seasoned professionals on stage with rising stars gives the City Rep/OCU effort a well-rounded dynamic. Christopher Carl (Emile) started singing as a boy soprano, hated his voice so much when it changed to baritone that it took years before he would open his throat again. Once started, he’s become an unstoppable, acclaimed lyrical force in the US and abroad. Just fresh from playing Inspector Javert in “Les Miserables” at Arkansas Repertory Company, he says a career high was playing Sir Lancelot in “Camelot”, while Robert Goulet played King Arthur. He played Emile in the recent national tour of the Lincoln Center’s revival of “South Pacific” as well as being a part of the Broadway company. He relishes the chance to perform as Emile again in Oklahoma City. “I never get tired of living this play’s arc. Emile pours his heart and soul into his songs, and I just let them carry me along. Nobody writes shows or songs like this any more; I owe it to the role, the audience, the composer and lyricist, to give it everything I’ve got when I’m on stage as Emile.”
“South Pacific” will be presented in the The Kirkpatrick Auditorium in the Kirkpatrick Fine Arts Center on the campus of Oklahoma City University located at 2501 N Blackwelder Ave. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73106.
Tickets are $35, $20, $15 and $8 for Students, Teachers and Military Personnel (with ID) and may be obtained by calling the Oklahoma City University’s Box Office at 405.208.5227. Tickets online: www.cityrep.com
“South Pacific” is directed by acclaimed New York director, Len Pfluger, who also provides the Musical Staging; Musical Direction is by Jan McDaniel; Choreography is by Megan Clark; Scenic Design is by Jason Foreman; Costume Design is by Ashley Bellet; Lighting Design is by Aaron Mooney; Sound Design is by Jason Stewart and Properties Design is by Tucker Irey.
The Bass School of Music at Oklahoma City University is home to the world’s oldest collegiate Opera and Music Theater Company, now in its 62nd consecutive season. On campus and on tour, the Company has presented more than 1,000 performances of 140 different shows to more than a half-million people around the globe. Graduates of the program include industry leaders and winners of Tony, Grammy and Emmy Awards. OCU is an All-Steinway school and a member of the National Association of Music Theater.
CityRep (Oklahoma City Repertory Theatre), under the leadership of Founding Artistic Director Donald Jordan, is one of only three Equity professional theatre companies in the state of Oklahoma and a respected member of Theatre Communications Group. It provides a vital service to our community by presenting programming that is reflected in major arts communities around the country— and to our Oklahoma professional theatre artists by providing an Oklahoma venue for employment and an artistic home.