Despite the meteorologist’s prediction of 20-degree temperatures for Friday and Saturday nights, everyone can experience a bit of tropical weather at Canton-Galva High School. That will happen when students take the stage at 7:30 p.m. to present Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “South Pacific.”
The 1950 Pulitzer Prize-winning drama features both fascinating characters and memorable songs. Playgoers will be familiar with melodies such as “Some Enchanted Evening,” “Happy Talk,” and “Bali Ha’i.”
Under the direction of music instructor Bill Olson, 27 high school students, along with two children, comprise the cast. Beth Medina, accompanist, will provide the music. Senior Chelsea Tabolt is Olson’s stage manager.
As the story unfolds against a World War II backdrop, a young naïve Navy nurse falls in love with an older plantation owner on a south sea island occupied by U.S. naval forces. As she struggles with her own emotions, another love story evolves between an island girl and a Navy lieutenant.
Sarah Becker, senior, plays the part of Nellie Forbush, the Navy nurse. Becker sees her character as an optimist who is a bit of a “flip-flopper” as she experiences a serious love. This is her fourth musical and second lead character.
Becker enjoys the many costume changes and the adrenaline rush of theater. She said her role in South Pacific is challenging because she has more singing than in previous roles.
Her love interest, Emile de Becque, is portrayed by Kaden Littrell, junior. He also finds challenges in the singing, as his character performs three solos and a duet.
“I have fewer lines (than in previous musicals),” Littrell said. “I committed my lines to memory during the long bus ride over the weekend. If you think of it as basically carrying on a conversation, it is easier to remember your lines.”
Added to the charming story of these two love struck characters is the character Luther Billis, played by Wes Cantrell, junior. Billis, who runs the base laundry, is in love with Nellie Forbush, so a love triangle complicates the plot.
Cantrell, also a three-year musical veteran, said his challenges include the number of lines he has to memorize and the number of props he has to handle. This character has given Cantrell his toughest role yet.
“My character is very honest,” he said. “He takes flowers to Nellie but tells her they are not from him. He does the laundry for her with great care, taking extra time with the pleats in her dress shorts.”
He describes the musical as a family show, noting all the fun and laughs. While he appears in a basic sailor uniform for most scenes, he said he has one costume change that involves a grass skirt, a coconut bra, and a long wig. That costume is worn for a talent show scene.
Page 2 of 2 - Another memorable character is Bloody Mary, portrayed by Emmaretta Evans, senior. According to four-year veteran of C-GHS musicals, her character, an eccentric islander, is not a bit self-conscious and gets into the face of the other characters. She sells grass skirts and shrunken heads to the members of the military, all the while trying to marry off her daughter to one of them, Lt. Joseph Cable.
While the musical provides fun for the cast and the audience, Evans said the plot can really make people think.
“Lt. Cable and Nellie are both from the U.S., and they experience feelings that go against what they have been taught all their lives,” Evans said, recognizing the issue of prejudice interwoven into the storyline.
Playgoers have a special opportunity available before the Saturday performance. To raise funds for the freshman class, students are offering “Dinner at the Polynesian Hut.” The dinner theater, set for 6 p.m. in the high school commons, will feature a menu of Pineapple Hula Ham, Paradise Party Potatoes, Tropical Fruit Salad, Hawaiian Sweet Rolls and Caribbean Shortcake. Only reservations will be honored at the dinner.