Theatre Review: ‘South Pacific’ at Lancaster Opera House

There are few shows as romantic as “South Pacific.” Despite being set near a warzone, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s intoxicating and dreamy score are enough to melt the ice off your shoes and whisk you away to a tropical island.

Lancaster Opera House puts on yet another stellar, professional production.

David Bondrow directs this classic musical at Lancaster Opera House and, with the exception of a few opening night hiccups, offers a largely high-quality production.

Rarely is a set worth mentioning before the acting performances, but David Dwyer’s design and construction work demands it. Considering the most recent, highly acclaimed “South Pacific” revival (broadcast on PBS) at Lincoln Center set the design bar VERY high for any subsequent production, Dwyer nailed the necessary color palate and atmosphere for the show in the incredibly limited Opera House space. Coupled with Nicholas Quinn’s saturated lighting design, the show is visually top-notch.

Andrew Cummings is Emile de Becque, the enchanting, mysterious Frenchman who catches the eye of Navy nurse Nellie Forbush (Meghan Cobham). While parts of Cummings performance ride a fine line between debonair and arrogant, his rich, incredible baritone upstages any criticism. One of the shows most iconic songs, “Some Enchanted Evening,” perfectly suits him and will easily have audience members swooning.

Cobham, on the other hand, has room to grow , especially in scene work. She is an adorable Nellie, perfecting her small-town curiosity and sweet soprano for most of her musical moments. But when the crucial time comes for Nellie to explore the more controversial side of her personality, Cobham shies away from going as far as she needed to sell the scene.

Outside of Nellie and Emile’s relationship, the show hinges on two very important things – the appeal of Lt. Joseph Cable and the comedic strength of Luther Billis. Fortunately, these are two of Bondrow’s best casting decisions. An attractive Johnny Wilson takes on the role of Cable and thankfully brings a strong voice to “Younger Than Springtime” as well as an impressive acting range to a sometimes two-dimensional character. For the brevity of the second act to land, the audience has to fall in love with Cable and thanks to Wilson, they do.

Elliot F. Fox is Billis, undoubtedly the best performance of this production. He fearlessly gives himself over to the good-hearted, adventurous and occasionally idiotic Billis and it’s so much fun to watch. I challenge you to name a more entertaining part of the show than his performance in “Honey Bun.”

It is rare to find a production of “South Pacific” in this area, especially a good one. Thanks to incredible vocals, full orchestra and perfect set, Lancaster Opera House puts on yet another stellar, professional production.

Running Time: Approximately 2-Hours 30-Minutes including a 15- minute intermission

“South Pacific” runs through November 26, 2017 at Lancaster Opera House. For more information, click here.