Tuesday, March 25, 2014

"South Pacific" set to stun audiences

In this culturally diverse and progressive city that is Asheville, a classic tale of learning to love past your prejudices comes to life. Asheville Lyric Opera is proud to announce Rodger’s & Hammerstein’s South Pacific as its summer production. Chosen not only for its easily recognized show tunes and beloved characters, Asheville Lyric Opera hopes to introduce the Asheville audience to the classical stage genius of Rodgers & Hammerstein.

Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein were first introduced to the racism and injustice prevalent in island nations of World War II via James A. Michener’s 1947 book of short stories, Tales of the South Pacific. Deeply stirred by the somewhat interconnected stories in the Pulitzer Prize winning book, they decided to write a bold musical that would address prevalent prejudices in American culture.

The story revolves mainly around the naïve American nurse Nellie Forbush and the handsome French plantation owner, Emile de Becque. Set on a remote island in the South Pacific with American soldiers, Navy nurses and island natives, romances bloom not only with Emile and Nellie but a lovely island girl named Liat and Lieutenant Joe Cable. Both couples struggle with their racism. Nellie cannot accept Emile’s mixed race children from a previous marriage and Joe hesitates to marry Liat because of his upper-class family’s prejudice toward a Polynesian girl. Supporting characters such as Liat’s scheming mother Bloody Mary, and the antics of an assortment of bumbling, female companionship deprived officers add comic relief to the story. Joe and Emile go on a dangerous mission that claims Joe’s life but makes Nellie realize that life is too short to let prejudices get in the way of true love and happiness. She believes Emile is dead so she begins to love his children as her own. In the end, Emile returns from his mission and marries Nellie.

The original Broadway play was quite successful and ran for 1,925 performances. South Pacific won 10 Tony awards for best musical, best score and best libretto plus it is the only musical to win Tony awards for all 4 acting categories.

In the 1958 film version, Emile de Becque was played by Rossano Brazzi but his singing voice was provided by Giorgio Tozzi. Tozzi was the mentor of none other but our General Director, David Craig Starkey. As the protégé of Giorgio Tozzi, Starkey will produce a beautiful rendition of the show. Dr. Jon Truitt, resident professor of opera at Evansville University and ALO artistic advisor will be directing this production. 

Making his debut with the Asheville Lyric Opera as the music director will be Dr. Leslie Downs.  He received his Doctor of Music Arts in Piano Performance degree from the University of Oklahoma in 2010 and immediately went on staff there with the prestigious Weitzenhoffer School of Musical Theatre.  In addition to the leads that will be performing, ALO will incorporate the talents of several young artists participating in the annual Summer Artist Training Program in this production.

Friday, July 18, 2014, 8pm
Saturday, July 19, 2014, 8pm
Sunday, July 20, 2014, 3pm
Diana Wortham Theatre, Asheville NC
Tickets on sale now thru the Diana Wortham Theater Box Office: 828-257-4530 or online at www.ashevillelyric.org

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