'South Pacific' boasts talented cast

There are several reasons to get your tickets for University Theatre's production of "South Pacific." But at the top of the list is the fabulous singing.

The praise one could heap on baritone Justin Petersen, who plays Emile De Becque, could fill the space allotted for this review.

Petersen first came to notice in last spring's production of "The Bartered Bride." But in this show, he is absolutely stellar. His voice is flawless and filled with emotion � and, oh my, the on-stage charisma! The audience can't help but be enraptured by every song, whether it's "Some Enchanted Evening" or "This Nearly Was Mine." This young man's talent is enormous.

S'ng Oh is delightful as Bloody Mary, the Tokinese woman who sells shrunken heads. Her voice is beautifully trained and hypnotic in "Bali Ha'i." Dustin Peterson, who plays Lt. Joseph Cable, shows off his honey-laden tenor in "Younger Than Springtime" and "You've Got to Be Carefully Taught."

Also of note are Kelly Mengelkoch as Nellie Forbush, who shines most in "A Wonderful Guy" and a "Thanksgiving Follies" sketch with Matthew Simon, who plays the coconut-bra-wearing sailor Luther Billis.

"South Pacific" is directed thoughtfully � maybe even provocatively � by John Staniunas. The musical was written by Rodgers and Hammerstein in the late 1940s, in part, to address the anti-Semitism they experienced. In the play, De Becque has left his homeland to escape its meanness, and Nellie and Lt. Cable are confronted by their racism. All of them must decide if their hate is larger than their love � a decision that, sadly, is still relevant in today's world.

"South Pacific" continues at 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday and 2:30 Sunday in Crafton-Preyer Theater in Murphy Hall.

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