Review: The King and I (Porchlight Music Theatre Chicago)

     
     

Getting to love you

     
     

Brianna-Borger and Wayne Hu

  
Porchlight Music Theatre Chicago presents
  
The King and I
  
Written by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II
Directed by L. Walter Stearns
Music Directed by Eugene Dizon
at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont (map)
through June 5  |  tickets: $35  |  more info

Reviewed by Lawrence Bommer

L. Walter Stearns’ final staging for Porchlight Music Theatre (he’s moving on to manage the Mercury Theatre) is a splendid swan song. Efficient but never merely dutiful, this tender-loving revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s 1951 treasure lets the talent on this stage honor the brilliance on the page. Despite lacking the budgets of Marriott Theatre’s 2000 revival or the most recent one at Drury Lane Oakbrook in 2007, Porchlight never allows less to be lacking.

Erik Kaiko as Lun Tha and Jillian Jocson as Tuptim - King and IBesides, look at what they’re working with! It’s rewarding how much the R & H musicals amplify each other, yielding a whole much bigger than its parts. In The King and I we see a British schoolteacher who changes the children around her and shapes the future through her enlightened tutelage of the Crown Prince of Siam. Anna Leonowens anticipates Maria Von Trapp, an Austrian governess who changes the children and around and escapes the present to pursue the sound of music. Likewise, Flower Drum Song carefully chronicles the cultural changes in a community. Above all, like South Pacific, King and I delivers an action lesson in tolerance. Anna and the King learn from each pother, he forbearance and humility before the facts of life, love and death, she the discipline and tradition required to keep a nation together and, more importantly, unconquered.

The closest comparison outside the R & H canon is, interestingly, Fiddler on the Roof: Both musicals deal with central characters coping with change during convulsive historical periods, desperate to preserve tradition (and power) while wryly accepting the future, as much on their terms as possible.

The King’s transformation (and, by implication, that of Siam) is accomplished in stunning songs like “Getting to Know You” and “Shall We Dance?” that win us over from the first note. Well worth the succession from Gertrude Lawrence to Deborah Kerr to Donna Murphy, Brianna Borger’s warmly engaging Anna brings quicksilver resilience and five different kinds of love to her widow, mother, tutor, confidante and lover. Her patter songs, “Shall I Tell You What I Think of You?,” crackles with contagious indignation and hard-core spunk. The first Asian I’ve seen playing the King, burly Wayne Hu stamps the King with wizard timing, wry irascibility and bedrock dignity. The fact that he’s no infallible leader only makes his aspirations to authority more poignant and less threatening.

It’s impossible to overpraise Jillian Anne Jocson’s lovely and lyrical Tuptim, enchanting in “I Have Dreamed” and “We Kiss in Shadow” with ardent Erik Kaiko as her doomed beloved, or Kate Garassino’s elegant Lady Thiang, wisdom wrapped in reticence. The Siamese wives and children (here reduced to six) are marvels of grace in energy and as comely as a palace frieze. Likewise Bill Morey’s elaborate Eastern costumes, their shimmering and sumptuous fabrics lit by Mac Vaughey with what must be new colors, and Ian Zywica’s unit set with its Oriental throne room, filigreed archways, and burnished floor. (Flanking the king are dualistic symbols of East and West—a chess set and a statue of the Buddha.) Brenda Didier’s choreography, faithful to Jerome Robbins, turns “‘The Small House of Uncle Thomas’ Ballet” into a cascade of astonishment and artful reinvention.

For purists like me there’s one cavil: This revival’s two-piano accompaniment, however beautifully played by Eugene Dizon and Allison Hendrix, is nonetheless a letdown, robbing the songs of the rich orchestrations Rodgers intended. Less crucial, the delightful scene in which the ladies of the court try to maneuver inside European crinoline ballgowns and corsets is necessarily omitted. But new to me is the royal school’s anthem sung by Anna and her princely pupils, as well as a charming reprise of “A Puzzlement” sung by the sons of the principals that extends the cultural clash to the next generation. You win some, you lose some.

  
  
Rating: ★★★
  
  

Brianna Borger, Dylan Lainez, Tatum Pearlman, Lydia Hurrelbrink

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Review: Some Enchanted Evening (Theo Ubique Theatre)

  
  

Update: Now extended through July 3rd!

More American than apple pie!

  
  

Austin Cook, Evan Tyrone Martin, Dana Tretta - Theo-Ubique Cabaret Theatre - Some Enchanted Evening

  
Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre presents
    
Some Enchanted Evening:
  The Songs of Rodgers and Hammerstein

          

Directed by Fred Anzevino
Music Directed by Austin Cook
at No Exit Café, 6970 N. Glenwood (map)
through June 5  |  tickets: $25-$30 (dinner: $20)  |  more info

Reviewed by Lawrence Bommer

The purest patriotism possible in this troubled land is just to love the subject of this show. The beautiful Broadway created by Rodgers and Hammerstein is broad indeed, and a way to everything that’s (still) good about America. We can enjoy the optimism of Oklahoma, dangerous ambition of Carousel, courage and tolerance of South Pacific, family values of State Fair, curiosity and growth of The King and I, assimilation of Flower Drum Song, and, well, the love of singing in The Sound of Music.  It’s there in melodies (Rodgers) you could get drunk on and lyrics (Hammerstein) that feel good because they’re just true.

Danni Smith and Austin Cook - Theo-Ubique Cabaret Theatre - Some Enchanted Evening, Songs of Rogers and HammersteinFramed as a rehearsal that turns into a performance, Fred Anzevino’s generous, two-hour tribute to R&H’s glorious Americana showcases five splendid singers flawlessly directed by musical director and pianist Austin Cook. The uncredited compilation offers clever to sumptuous arrangements in a program that lets the songs talk to each other almost as much as they resonate with an equally impassioned audience. We grew up with these songs until they’re now part of our emotional DNA.

At the same time, you’ve never imagined “Maria” as a possible love song about a relationship, not a complaint by nuns, but it works well here. (Less so is the unnecessarily jazzed-up backdrop to “Something Wonderful.”) A few discoveries offer less-known confirmation of the partners’ mastery, like the winsome “A Fellow Needs a Girl” and the sardonic lament “The Gentleman Is a Dope” (Rodgers’ later sequel to “The Lady Is a Tramp”?).

So many favorites are included that it’s easier to mention the ones that aren’t (the power anthems “Climb Every Mountain” and “You’ll Never Walk Along” and my favorite ballad, “What’s the Use of Won’drin’?”). What made the cut, however, is perfection enough, especially as sung by a soaring soprano and euphoric belter like Sarah Schoch, who gives “A Wonderful Guy” a fitting sweep and scope. Dana Tretta is a wicked comedienne in “I Can’t Say No” and a wistful lover in “I Have Dreamed.” Danni Smith brings star quality to the fragile “Love, Look Away” and raw nostalgia and tensile heartbreak to “Hello, Young Lovers.”

     
Danni Smith, Evan Tyrone Martin, Dana Tretta - Theo-Ubique Cabaret Theatre Austin Cook, Evan Tyrone Martin, Dana Tretta, Jeremy Trager - Theo-Ubique Theatre
Some Enchated Evening ensemble - Theo-Ubique Cabaret 3 Evan Tyrone Martin, Dana Tretta, Austin Cook, Jeremy Trager Danni Smith and Sara Schoch in 'Some Enchated Evening' - Theo-Ubique Cabaret

Jeremy Trager’s baritone serves him splendidly throughout, never more so than in his driven version of Billy Bigelow’s all-confessing “Soliloquy.” Finally, Evan Tyrone Martin brings a heavenly tenor to “Edelweiss,” a folk song so pure it fits every possible singer, while his tender and haunting take on the little-known “Everybody’s Got a Home But Me” shows how R&H could summon up the blues in spirit if not in note.

Fine as they are, collectively this terrific ensemble turn “Shall We Dance,” “A Grand Night,” “Grant Avenue,” and the seductive title song into harmonious musical gems of a thousand carats each.

Well, the revue’s title says it all. My one complaint is that the whole show should have been a sing-along. But I’ll leave that to “The Messiah.”

  
     
Rating: ★★★★
  
  

Austin Cook, Dana Tretta, Jeremy Trager, Danni Smith, Sara Schoch and Evan Tyrone Martin in 'Some Enchanted Evening' - Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre

All photos by G. Thomas Ward Photography

     
     

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REVIEW: Carousel (Light Opera Works)

Industrial Strength Nostalgia

 

Carousel Light Opera Works Chicago 03

  
Light Opera Works presents
   
Carousel
  
Written by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein
Directed by Stacey Flaster
at Cahn Auditorium, 600 Emerson, Evanston (map)
through August 29 |  tickets: $32-$77  |  more info

reviewed by Lawrence Bommer

Some candies may melt in your mouth, but practically every song in this glorious 1945 gem of heartfelt Americana melts in your heart. Filled with what’s now post-war nostalgia for an even simpler America (a sea town in Maine in the late 19th century), Rodgers and Hammerstein’s lovely and loving masterwork is an inspired reworking of Ferenc Molnari’s Liliom, a knowing drama about an abusive husband who’s given one last—posthumous—chance to redeem himself to the wife he abused and the daughter he never knew but still might save.

Maybe because it’s hard to believe in 2010 that a husband can “hit [his wife] so hard and still not have it hurt” (as Billy Bigelow supposedly does to the too trusting Julie Jordan), the seemingly tender plot of this beloved musical Carousel can also register an ugly shock of recognition. It’s nothing like the vicious menace that Jud Fry offers   Laurie and Curly in the earlier hit Oklahoma!  But this is even closer for discomfort–domestic violence Carousel Light Opera Works Chicago 01nurtured by Billy’s need to strike out at anyone but at the real threat, the loser he feels he is.

The question of whether carnival-barker Billy Bigelow will find posthumous redemption–by offering a star to the daughter he never knew–seems less important than the fact that soon after this unreformed bruiser returns to earth, the abuser slaps his daughter, as he did her mother 15 years before. If he helps his daughter Louise, it doesn’t happen on stage. And this, though Billy knows that his return to the living (like Jimmy Stewart’s in a film from the same year) is his one chance to make up for the cruelty and crimes that shortened his earthly sojourn–and escape the pangs of hell.

Writing about the recent Broadway revival of Carousel, the late William A. Henry III dismissed the 1945 classic as a musical where nothing important happens when it should and in which a rotter’s reformation occurs after it’s too late to matter.

But that’s the lure that drew Oscar Hammerstein to Ferenc Molnar’s Liliom: We need to believe that, unlike letters, love is never lost.

Refusing to dispute her dependency ("What’s The Use of Wondr’rin’?"), Julie Jordan, a lovestruck Victorian millgirl, clings to her seemingly worthless Billy. In real life, Julie’s dogged devotion to a thug would gain her a worse beating. But the musical’s make-believe, plus the powerful persuasion of a deathless anthem like "You’ll Never Walk Alone," improves on fact–at least until you think of Simpson.

Sturdy and sometimes impassioned, Light Opera Works’ revival – very down to earth and up to heaven, unlike the famous and deliriously lyrical Lincoln Center revival of a decade ago – finds a strong moment at the start: The famous waltz accompanies the millgirls’ happy deliverance from work and riotous escape to the carnival, complete with the title amusement. That–and the passionate “dream” dance duo between Nicole Miller and Todd Rhodes–are superb bookends for a literally moving musical.

Carousel Light Opera Works Chicago 05The casting seems made to matter. Cooper David Grodin makes a lean and menacing Billy, with a body language as confident as his tenor and more so than his acting. (He’s trying so hard to be tough that we miss the tenderness that clearly draws Julie to this “bad boy.”) Innocent until ardent, Natalie Ford gives Julie the pole-axed passion that makes this unschooled woman endure so much for her premature prince. But since they don’t connect when it counts–in the wonderful 11-minute "bench scene" that blooms into "If I Loved You"–it’s hard to wish them a second chance.

Ably inhabiting the supporting roles, Elizabeth Lanza enjoys her merry moments as conventional Carrie, a millgirl who enters into a risk-free contract with proper Yankee entrepreneur Enoch Snow (played with gawky rectitude by George Keating). As maternal Aunt Nettie, Winifred Faix Brown makes much of the unstoppable anthem "You’ll Never Walk Alone." Katherine L. Condit as Billy’s true soulmate, the randy Mrs. Mullin, and Jeremy Trager as his nemesis Jigger Craigin suggest the dark side of Billy Bigelow that Julie alone can’t tame. Happily, that doesn’t apply to the musical itself. These songs are surefire charmers and mellow a plot that almost too abruptly changes from flinty New England realism to moonspun and quicksilver wishful thinking. But then “What’s the Use of Wond’rin?”

   
   
Rating: ★★★
     
     

Carousel Light Opera Works Chicago 04

Extra Credit:

   
   

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REVIEW: An Evening with LuPone and Patinkin (BIC)

Let the pros show you how it’s done

 

patti-mandy

Broadway in Chicago presents:

An Evening with Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin

Conceived by Mandy Patinkin and Paul Ford
Directed by Mandy Patinkin
At the
Cadillac Palace Theatre 
24 W. Randolph, Chicago

Through March 7th (more info | tickets)

by Paige Listerud

There’s something secure in watching two consummate professionals dig into the American songbook and skillfully weave both major and minor works into a thematic Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin in “An Evening with Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin.” This one-week-only engagement with two of the most acclaimed performers of our time opens at the Center Theatre Group/Ahmanson Theatre on June 23, 2009, and will continue through June 29. For tickets and information, call (213) 628-2772 or go to www.CenterTheatreGroup.org.           
Photo Credit: Brigitte Lacombe
Press Contact: CTG Press (213) 972-7376 whole. Their vocal power and dexterity astonishes, their ability to delineate the subtext behind the lyrics awakens new possibilities within each song, and the sheer joy in performance that they exhibit with each other becomes nothing less than infectious. Patti Lupone and Mandy Patinkin take the audience on a musical journey and that audience will gladly then follow over hill and dale precisely because they know they are in good hands.

Broadway In Chicago’s An Evening with Patti Lupone and Mandy Patinkin only runs from March 2 to March 7 at the Cadillac Palace Theatre. The show reunites them after their first turn together in Evita thirty years ago. But the biggest surprise of the evening may be the casual, youthful ease and vigor both singers evince as the evening progresses. Upon opening night, Lupone omitted her classic calling card, “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina,” from the program’s first act—leading to speculation over whether she felt a touch under the weather. If so, it was a meager compromise in an otherwise energetic and precisely crafted performance.

Mandy Patinkin conceived the dramatic arc and music selection of the production with his longtime accompanist and collaborator Paul Ford. Indeed, it’s difficult to imagine this show without Ford’s quicksilver touch at the piano. The program itself is intriguing, to say the least. Major musical hits by Jerome Kern, Steven Sondheim and Rodgers and Hammerstein have been spliced with lesser known work–such as “Somewhere It’s Green” from Little Shop of Horrors, “Everybody Says Don’t” from Anyone Can Whistle, and “Old Folks” from 70, Girls, 70. The songs are aligned to suggest the course of a relationship between two people–falling love, evading commitment, settling down and recalling the past together.

Mandy Patinkin in “An Evening with Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin.” This one-week-only engagement with two of the most acclaimed performers of our time opens at the Center Theatre Group/Ahmanson Theatre on June 23, 2009, and will continue through June 29. For tickets and information, call (213) 628-2772 or go to www.CenterTheatreGroup.org.
Photo Credit: Brigitte Lacombe
Press Contact: CTG Press (213) 972-7376 Patti LuPone in “An Evening with Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin.” This one-week-only engagement with two of the most acclaimed performers of our time opens at the Center Theatre Group/Ahmanson Theatre on June 23, 2009, and will continue through June 29. For tickets and information, call (213) 628-2772 or go to www.CenterTheatreGroup.org.           
Photo Credit: Brigitte Lacombe
Press Contact: CTG Press (213) 972-7376
Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin in “An Evening with Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin.” This one-week-only engagement with two of the most acclaimed performers of our time opens at the Center Theatre Group/Ahmanson Theatre on June 23, 2009, and will continue through June 29. For tickets and information, call (213) 628-2772 or go to www.CenterTheatreGroup.org.           
Photo Credit: Brigitte Lacombe
Press Contact: CTG Press (213) 972-7376 Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin in “An Evening with Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin.” This one-week-only engagement with two of the most acclaimed performers of our time opens at the Center Theatre Group/Ahmanson Theatre on June 23, 2009, and will continue through June 29. For tickets and information, call (213) 628-2772 or go to www.CenterTheatreGroup.org.           
Photo Credit: Brigitte Lacombe
Press Contact: CTG Press (213) 972-7376 patti-mandy-together

The arc of the first act flows more smoothly than the second, mostly because it’s hard to miss a love story with tunes from South Pacific. Patinkin’s light, dexterous interpretation of “Some Enchanted Evening” refreshes and revives the standard. Clearly, Patinkin, Lupone and Ford are pushing the songs a little beyond conventional rendition—never so far as to seem outlandish, just enough to incite renewed interest. Patter songs frame and energize the evening—Lupone whipping out “Getting Married Today” from Company and Patinkin joyfully hamming his heart out with “The God-Why-Don’t-You-Love-Me Blues” from Follies.

The storyline may get a little lost in the second act, but by that time the audience just might not care. Lupone and Patinkin clearly love working together and they happily let everyone else in on their connection. Some numbers are effervescently goofy, like Ann Reinking’s charmingly choreographed dance on rolling office chairs. Above all, both performers are old hands at deeply humanizing their material but also give it the fresh glow of people who never take life for granted. It’s a perspective that makes this show the perfect start to March in Chicago, when the first suggestions of spring are borne on the wind.

 

Rating: ★★★½

 

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Review: “South Pacific” – a theatrical masterpiece

The Lincoln Center revival comes to the Rosemont Theatre, and perfection ensues.

SP_DavidCarmen1_cap

The Lincoln Center presents:

South Pacific

 

by Richard Rodgers (music) and Oscar Hammerstein II (lyrics)
Book by Hammerstein and
Joshua Logan
Directed by Bartlett Sher
Thru November 29th (ticket info)

Reviewed by Oliver Sava

sp3 Many would argue that the Lincoln Center‘s South Pacific is the best revival of the Rodgers and Hammerstein wartime musical ever devised. Having never seen South Pacific on stage before, I cannot gauge how director Bartlett Sher’s interpretation compares to previous productions, but I will say this: it is one of the most beautiful and emotional musicals I have ever seen.

World War II is in full force, and the threat of Japanese invasion has resulted in U.S. Navy outposts throughout the Polynesian islands. Romance is in bloom for Ensign Nellie Forbush (Carmen Cusack) and French planter Emile de Becque (David Pittsinger), but Nellie’s prejudices threaten to tear them apart when she discovers his two mixed-race children. The two actors have incredible chemistry, immediately establishing their softly smoldering passion with "Twin Soliloquies," a transcendent duet that probes into the characters’ hopes and fears and sets the stage for their tumultuous relationship. Seconds later, Pittsinger begins "Some Enchanted Evening," arguably the musical’s most famous song, and the audience is as spellbound as Nellie; the  quality of Pittsinger’s voice is ethereal, as delicate and powerful as the character that it belongs to. His Act II solo "This Nearly Was Mine," a heartbreaking rumination on lost anderson_davis_as_lt_joseph_cable_and_sumie_maeda_as_liat___photo_by_peter_coombsopportunities, packs an emotional punch that left the audience with teary eyes and sniffling noses. There is simply not enough praise that can be showered on Pittsinger, whose portrayal of Emile de Becque belongs in a museum.

Cusack is no slouch in the vocals department either, showing amazing range with a great brassy belt that seems effortless. Her first solo, "A Cockeyed Optimist" has a youthful effervescence that captures Nellie’s naiveté, but Cusack then turns on the heat with the playfully sexy "I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair," Charleston-ing in her bathing suit while splashing her giggling girlfriends with shampoo. The scene that immediately follows, an awkward confrontation between the half-naked Forbush and her renounced lover, is filled with tension as the audience watches the ingénue struggle with her combating emotions, but the payoff is glorious: "A Wonderful Guy" is a joyous exclamation of love that is heightened exponentially by Cusack’s commitment to her character, and watching her jump around the stage with unbridled glee is a fantastic release from the intensity of the scene that preceded it. After Nellie believes Emile to have died on a secret mission with Lt. Cable in Act II, she sings a reprise of "Some Enchanted Evening" with a lamentable sadness that makes her utterance of the line "Don’t die, Emile," incredibly tragic and heart-rending.

Pittsinger and Cusack are joined by a spot-on supporting cast, highlighted by Anderson Davis as Lt. Joseph Cable and Keala Settle as Bloody Mary. Davis has the voice of an angel, churning out incredibly high notes with ease, but he also brings fervent passion to his character. The intimacy between Cable and Bloody Mary’s daughter Liat (Sumie Maeda) is gentle, but there is a fire beneath the relationship that makes their inevitable split all the more heartbreaking. Davis also has great chemistry with Cusack, creating a strong bond of friendship during "My Girl Back Home" that comes from his understanding of Forbush’s troubles and the ways in which they reflect his own. As the injustices that have defined his beliefs become apparent to Cable, Anderson becomes increasingly fervid, culminating in the tragic "You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught," a raging criticism of how American society molds its citizens into hateful bigots.

sp2Settle has the unenviable task of taking the stereotypical Bloody Mary and finding the reality that defines the character, and she does a phenomenal job. While Mary is primarily used for comic relief, Settle makes her sensual, astute, and just the right amount of dangerous, creating three dimensions from a cardboard cutout of a character. Mary takes advantage of the sailors’ misconceptions of the native people, proving herself not only a cunning businesswoman, but a deviously effective matchmaker to boot. Her enchanting rendition of "Bali Ha’i" has the mystical air that has made the song a musical theater staple, and she is aided by the phenomenal design team who create a towering image of Bali Ha’i simply with color and shadow. Mary’s hopes for her daughter fuel her actions, and watching Settle cultivate Liat’s relationship with Cable during "Happy Talk" is a welcome contrast to the brash mischief of her earlier scenes.

Design-wise, the show is a work of art, with Michael Yeargan‘s sets stretching out to an imaginary horizon that feels amazingly real. Donald Holder‘s lighting creating an ethereal atmosphere in the opening scenes with shades of blue and pink that pop off the stage, and stark monochromatic hues in the later moments reflect the dark turn of the storyline. Ted Sperling‘s musical direction is out of this world, and the 26 piece pit orchestra have such an amazing understanding of Robert Russell Bennett‘s orchestrations that it’s nigh impossible to not be completely enthralled in the music from the very first swelling of the overture.

matthew_saldivar_as_luther_billis_and_the_seabees_of_south_pacific_by_peter_coombs Sher‘s directing genius is clearly evident in the performances of his outstanding cast, but one specific directorial choice must be discussed in order to truly understand the wonder of his South Pacific. After Emile’s supposed death, Nellie becomes a caretaker to his two children, having overcome her prejudices when she realizes they pale in comparison to the love he has shown her. In the final scene, Emile reappears while Nellie shares dinner with his children, and his son and daughter rush to him as if he had just come home from a day on the fields, unaware of the moment’s gravity. Nellie does not rush to him, she does not wrap her arms around him and kiss him passionately. Rather, she is so overcome with emotion that she can think of nothing else to do but set the table for the returned patriarch, and as they all sit in silence, a family for the first time, Emile places his hand on the empty seat between his lover and he. The simple motion of Nellie putting her hand in his is done with such passion and intensity that it speaks louder than any words, and is the most subtle and absolute display of love that I have ever seen on stage.

If the opportunity to see South Pacific presents itself before its regrettable November 29th closing, drag yourself to the Rosemont Theater, whether that be by car, public transit, hitchhiking, or walking 20 miles in freezing rain. It’s a small price to pay for this theatrical masterpiece.

Rating: ★★★★

“South Pacific” opens tonight!

The Chicago engagement of the national tour of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s SOUTH PACIFIC will be led by internationally renowned bass-baritone David Pittsinger as Emile de Becque and Carmen Cusack as Nellie Forbush

The eight-time Tony Award-winning production will play the Rosemont Theatre for a limited one-week engagement Nov. 24 – 29, 2009.  For more information on the production, please visit www.SouthPacificOnTour.com or www.RosemontTheatre.com.

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David Pittsinger wows the crowd at Gibson’s Steakhouse

Big talent represents “South Pacific” at Gibson’s

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By: Timothy McGuire

I recently had the opportunity to attend a media luncheon for the upcoming touring performance of Lincoln Center Theater’s production of South Pacific. Broadway’s successful tony award winning musical will be playing at the Rosemont Theatre for a limited one-week engagement November 24 – 29, 2009. (ticket info)

The passion and excitement for this specific production was evident in the enthusiasm expressed by the people involved in bringing this production from New York to Chicago. They sincerely believe that this is an extraordinary show offering the audience the rare opportunity to experience a performance done in the spectacular old Broadway fashion, featuring a huge full orchestra unlike anything seen in current Broadway productions today. The touring show of South Pacific promises to be a near replica of the prize-winning musical that started in New York.

The most impressive endorsement for this production was the opportunity to hear the astonishingly powerful and elegant voice of David Pittsinger, who will be playing Emile. The impact of Pittsinger’s romantically forceful bass-baritone voice just a few feet away brought the small audience at Gibson’s Steakhouse to emotional heights, and one can only imagine the magnificence of hearing the full production of his songs produced on Rosemont Theatre’s spacious stage.

southpacific_iconDavid Pittsinger also was a terrific speaker, appearing genuine in his belief in the significance and relevance of South Pacific to today’s audience. Pittsinger is the living embodiment of his character Emile. His wife is born of minority decent and he has interracial children (who he is bursting with pride to talk about.) His belief in love, unification and racial equality is evident in his actions and his loved ones around him.

The original role of Emile de Becque was written for an opera singer, and David Pittsinger is a talented, internationally acclaimed opera performer working with the Metropolitan Opera in New York City (most recently portrayed Angelotti in “Tosca”at the Metropolitan Opera) and living and working most of the year in France. The advantage that Pittsinger is also a world-class actor increases the quality of his role and greatly supports the well-written book that goes along with the classically entertaining music in South Pacific. With themes of war and racial conflict, along with the joyous uplifting story and cleverly catchy songs, this year is a fantastic time to enjoy Rodgers & Hammerstein’s South Pacific.