South Pacific | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

South Pacific 

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It's hard to imagine a musical more relevant right now than this 1949 Pulitzer winner, a healing tribute to decency during adversity and tolerance in the thick of war. Consummate showmen, Rodgers and Hammerstein know why Americans need to believe in themselves and what threatens that faith. When Nellie Forbush, a "cock-eyed optimist" from Little Rock stationed with the Seabees in the Pacific, overcomes her prejudices to love French planter Emile de Becque, a widower once married to a Polynesian woman, her small victory is the kind of good we want to believe can come from war. Scott Faris's cleanly presented touring production gloriously revives this landmark musical. Michael Nouri as Emile is a worthy successor to Ezio Pinza, Rossano Brazzi, and Robert Goulet; he conveys well the yearning in "Some Enchanted Evening" and the heartbreak in "This Nearly Was Mine." Replacing Erin Dilly as Nellie on opening night, Emily Rozek recalled a young Betty Hutton, moving from unforced sweetness (in the perfect waltz "I'm in Love With a Wonderful Guy") to equally unforced nobility at the end. Lewis Cleale as Lieutenant Joseph Cable displays a thrilling tenor and considerable acting skills: his "Younger Than Springtime" is as ardent as his "You've Got to Be Taught," Hammerstein's timeless, unanswerable diagnosis of bigotry. Bloody Mary has never been merrier than Armelia McQueen's Tonkinese troubadour, and Derek McLane's gorgeous tropical backdrops amount to a free trip to paradise. Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W. Randolph, 312-902-1400. Through October 14: Thursday, 7:30 PM; Friday, 8 PM; Saturday, 2 and 8 PM; Sunday, 2 PM. $27-$70.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Rob Levine.

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