ECU BRINGING MUSICAL SOUTH PACIFIC TO ATALOA STAGE

Audience members probably won’t find their true love in a stranger they see across the crowded Ataloa Theatre, but East Central University is planning several enchanted evenings when “South Pacific” opens Thursday [FEB. 17] in the Hallie Brown Ford Fine Arts Center.

Performances will begin at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Friday and at 2 p.m. Sunday [FEB. 20].

Navy nurse Nellie Forbush, played by Natalie May of Prague, overcomes her prejudices in the musical “South Pacific” to find happiness with French planter Emille de Becque, portrayed by Jonathan Van Hicks of Oklahoma City. The Rodgers and Hammerstein show will be staged at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday in the Ataloa Theatre in the Hallie Brown Ford Fine Arts Center. May will perform in the Friday and Sunday shows and Brittany Trail will play Nellie on Thursday and Saturday. For ticket information, call 580-559-5600. 
Navy nurse Nellie Forbush, played by Natalie May of Prague, overcomes her prejudices in the musical “South Pacific” to find happiness with French planter Emille de Becque, portrayed by Jonathan Van Hicks of Oklahoma City. The Rodgers and Hammerstein show will be staged at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday in the Ataloa Theatre in the Hallie Brown Ford Fine Arts Center. May will perform in the Friday and Sunday shows and Brittany Trail will play Nellie on Thursday and Saturday. For ticket information, call 580-559-5600.

“Everyone knows the songs,” said director Vickie Reifsnider. “You leave singing at least one of them. They stay in your head and heart.”

“Some Enchanted Evening” is just one of the memorable Rodgers and Hammerstein songs that help tell the story of Americans stationed in a different culture on a Pacific island during World War II. In addition to an extraordinary score, the musical has comedy, danger, drama and an exotic locale. It also explores racial prejudices, an unusual topic for a 1949 musical.

Ensign Nellie Forbush, a naïve Navy nurse from Little Rock, falls in love with Emile de Becque, a French planter, until she learns he is a widower with half-Polynesian children. Also, Marine Lt. Joseph Cable falls in love with a Polynesian girl named Liat.

When Cable and de Becque go off together on a dangerous spy mission, Nellie and Liat wait and hope for their return.

The play is drawn from James Michener’s book, “Tales of the South Pacific.”

Reifsnider advises parental guidance for children attending the show because of mild language.

“It’s done in humor,” she said, “but it’s still there.”

The leading actors nailed their own characters during cast interviews, but did not realize Nellie and Cable were prejudiced.

“That was the first time it dawned on them,” Reifsnider said. “Nellie won’t marry Emile because his children are Tonkinese, and Lt. Cable would be embarrassed to bring Liat home to meet his mother. I’m glad in a way that students don’t have to deal with that as much today. They are taught to accept everyone. It’s not a big problem now.”

The role of Nellie was double cast by an audition panel who felt seniors Brittany Trail of Ada and Natalie May of Prague were equally qualified for the part. Trail will perform in the Thursday and Saturday shows. May will take the role on Friday and Sunday.

Jonathan Van Hicks, an Oklahoma City junior who happened to run into Reifsnider in the hall during auditions and asked what she was doing, will portray Emile de Becque.

World War II nurse Nellie Forbush, played by Brittany Trail of Ada, checks Marine Lt. Joseph Cable (Caleb Bonar of Ada) for signs of malaria in this scene from “South Pacific.” The award-winning musical will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday [FEB. 17-19] and 2 p.m. Sunday [FEB. 20] in the Ataloa Theatre in East Central University’s Hallie Brown Ford Fine Arts Center. Trail will play Forbush on Thursday and Saturday and Natalie May will take the role on Friday and Sunday. For ticket information, call 580-559-5600.  
World War II nurse Nellie Forbush, played by Brittany Trail of Ada, checks Marine Lt. Joseph Cable (Caleb Bonar of Ada) for signs of malaria in this scene from “South Pacific.” The award-winning musical will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday [FEB. 17-19] and 2 p.m. Sunday [FEB. 20] in the Ataloa Theatre in East Central University’s Hallie Brown Ford Fine Arts Center. Trail will play Forbush on Thursday and Saturday and Natalie May will take the role on Friday and Sunday. For ticket information, call 580-559-5600.

“There was only 10 minutes left,” Reifsnider said. “He asked if he could audition. I said, sure. He asked if we had an Italian aria book. We got one and he stood behind (accompanist) Rudy Lupinsky and belted out an aria. His voice is gorgeous.”

Caleb Bonar of Ada, a home school senior and concurrent ECU student, will play Lt. Cable. “He’s only 17 but sings like he’s 35,” the director said. “He’s a fantastic singer.”

Keifer Truett, a freshman from Ada, will play Luther Billis, a con man and the sailors' leading comic relief.

“His personality, his singing voice and the character he chose for this part are fantastic,” Reifsnider said.

Kaleb Gordon, a junior from Seminole, based his character, Navy Capt. George Brackett, on his Georgia grandfather. The role of Comdr. William Harbison was cast as Comdr. Wilma Harbison for Jessica Pruitt, a junior from Broken Bow.

The show has a cast of more than 40 people.

Other “South Pacific” songs which became worldwide standards are “Younger Than Springtime,” “Bali Ha'i,” “There Is Nothin' Like A Dame,” “I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair” and “(I’m in Love with) A Wonderful Guy.”

“To introduce Rodgers and Hammerstein to the next generation has been an amazing ride,” Reifsnider said.

The ECU costumer and adjunct speech instructor said she does not like to see actors staring straight ahead, facing the audience to sing a song. She likes to add movement and a little humor.

World War II nurse Nellie Forbush, played by Brittany Trail of Ada, checks Marine Lt. Joseph Cable (Caleb Bonar of Ada) for signs of malaria in this scene from “South Pacific.” The award-winning musical will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday [FEB. 17-19] and 2 p.m. Sunday [FEB. 20] in the Ataloa Theatre in East Central University’s Hallie Brown Ford Fine Arts Center. Trail will play Forbush on Thursday and Saturday and Natalie May will take the role on Friday and Sunday. For ticket information, call 580-559-5600.
World War II nurse Nellie Forbush, played by Brittany Trail of Ada, checks Marine Lt. Joseph Cable (Caleb Bonar of Ada) for signs of malaria in this scene from “South Pacific.” The award-winning musical will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday [FEB. 17-19] and 2 p.m. Sunday [FEB. 20] in the Ataloa Theatre in East Central University’s Hallie Brown Ford Fine Arts Center. Trail will play Forbush on Thursday and Saturday and Natalie May will take the role on Friday and Sunday. For ticket information, call 580-559-5600.

“I put a lot of me in the show. I’m not taking away from what the author wrote, I’m just adding humor. I love that stuff,” she explained. “It just comes to me. I think the public will think it’s more enjoyable.”

Tickets for the Thursday through Saturday shows may be reserved by calling 580-559-5600. They may be purchased at the door or in ECU’s Bursar’s Office in the Administration Building. The Sunday matinee will be general admission. The cost is $10 for adults and $8 for students and senior citizens. ECU students, faculty and staff will be admitted free and all ECU alums receive a $1 discount.

Rudy Lupinski is the show’s musical director and Dr. Victoria Dansby is the choreographer. Theo Peshehonoff is the technical director.

 Dr. Allen Correll will conduct the orchestra and senior Lauren Hathcoat is stage director.

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For Immediate Release: 

Contact: Amy Ford
Jill Frye
East Central University 
Communications and Marketing
580-559-5650 or 405-812-1428 (cell)