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THEATER REVIEW: 'South Pacific' at The Jewel Box — enchanting community theatre

“South Pacific” at The Jewel Box—Enchanting Community Theatre

Every now and then, a name jumps out of the program for one reason or another. In “South Pacific,” now showing at Jewel Box Theatre, that name belongs to Scott Hynes. 

It seems to be in the wrong place. He’s in front of the lights—when he’s usually behind them! Hynes is the pre-eminent lighting designer for the Oklahoma City area. His role in “South Pacific” is that of the dashing, debonair Frenchman, Emile De Becque. Fortunately, he is also the lighting designer, and everyone in the show looks amazing!

“South Pacific” is an ambitious project for Angela Prock directing the large cast in this space, but she demonstrates she is equal to the task. It is vital in a romantic musical like “South Pacific” to be sure all the actors can be seen in important scenes, but it can be hard working in the round rather than a proscenium stage. Prock does a very nice job in placing the actors so they can naturally turn to show their expressions to the entire audience.

 “South Pacific” is a classic romance, taken from James Michener’s “Tales of the South Pacific” published in 1947. The book is set in the Pacific Theater during the war and chronicles the lives of American servicemen and women as they interact with their Polynesian hosts in the monumental effort to turn the tide of the war against the Japanese. The award-winning musical “South Pacific” premiered in 1949 and is a favorite Rogers and Hammerstein production to this day. The setting is the Solomon Islands at the height of the war. Our guys are headquartered there and are desperate to take every inch of island territory they can. 

Emile De Becque is an immigrant, originally from France and has developed a very successful plantation in spite of a tragic past. He's fallen in love with an American nurse from Little Rock, Ark., Ensign Nellie Forbush. They have some barriers to their romance, cultural differences between a sophisticated French landowner and a down home gal, falling in love surrounded by the wonderful but culturally different Paradise. 

Scott Hynes authentically portrays De Becque with a decidedly French flair in attitude and charm. The beautiful American nurse cannot help but be swept off her feet. Katie Sperry is a junior Musical Theatre student at OCU making her debut at Jewel Box as Ensign Nellie Forbush. She plays all-American girl, Nellie, with definite overtones from mid-century Arkansas; blessed with innocence and cursed with narrow attitudes. Together Hynes and Sperry make De Becque and Forbush visually ideal. Sperry has a lovely voice but it is not yet strong enough to carry conviction and cannot always be heard. Nevertheless, her potential is exciting.

Nellie is befriended by Luther Billis, typical Navy sailor with entrepreneurial tendencies. Robert Cooper plays the daredevil and scheming Billis. He often trades with a Tonkinese woman, Bloody Mary, who has her own unique style of retail business. Mary is convincingly played by Mariah Warren. Bloody Mary has a beautiful daughter, Liat, the epitome of South Sea beauty, appropriately played by Hannah Descartin. A young Lieutenant, Joseph Cable, arrives to discuss a sensitive mission known as “Alligator” with the brass. Jeremy Small portrays Lt. Joseph Cable exceptionally well, revealing an upper-crust upbringing camouflaging a down-to-earth core of humanity. There is more than one love story brewing in Paradise, and both couples must face and conquer the prejudices of the period.

Two slightly abrasive, strict, yet lovable leaders are David Patterson as Capt. George Brackett and Jeff Perkins as his aide, Cmdr. William Harbison. They clearly love their men; hate the sacrifice of those men, and are willing to sacrifice themselves for the nation with good heart.

 De Becque is a widower with two lovely children. Katie Mei Markmiller is daughter Ngana, and Cade Sweatt as young son, Jerome. The children have delightful sweet and quite believable scenes. On alternate evenings, Cadence Barreda and Ramey Brinkman take the roles, and rumor has it, these two are the equals of Melmarkmiller and Sweatt.

The large ensemble cast performs with enthusiasm, never missing a beat. Prock has an advantage with Laura Himes as music director and Kylan L. Durant, choreographer. The tightly knit group reveals some very tricky moves thanks to Durant, and their voices blend successfully under Himes’ leadership. The magnificent costumes from Jeffrey Meek are absolutely right, not too tight!

Technically, the show is sound, with the unfortunate exception of sound. The score is loud; overpowering much of the vocals. Dialing the volume down would be a great improvement. 

“South Pacific” is playing at the Jewel Box Theatre, 3700 N Walker in Oklahoma City. Curtain is 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday evenings with a 2:30 pm Sunday Matinee through May 7, 2017. For information and tickets, visit or call 405-521-1786. Bali Ha′i has called you.


Elizabeth Hurd

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