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Theater Review

'South Pacific': Enduring Wartime Romance

July 11, 2002|DON SHIRLEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A touring "South Pacific" looked shipshape as it glided into the Wilshire Theatre on Tuesday after a recent berth at the Orange County Performing Arts Center.

Robert Goulet's performance is almost as French as his name. As Emile, the planter who built a new life on an idyllic isle that's now threatened by World War II, his voice has all the requisite power for the magnificent Rodgers and Hammerstein score, although his vocal approaches to some of the phrases offer a little too much Goulet and not enough Emile.

Amanda Watkins is an adorably bubbly Nellie Forbush, the young American "hick" who falls for Emile until she learns about his offspring from a local woman--at which point Watkins convincingly pops the bubbles and assumes a much more restrained demeanor.

Lewis Cleale gets maximum mileage out of the underwritten role of Lt. Cable. His object of affection, Liat, is played by Kisha Howard, whose regal glamour removes much of the unsavory quality that inadvertently attends this romance when Liat is played as truly "younger than springtime."

David Warshofsky's line deliveries as Luther Billis have an amusing nasal quality, although his appearance in drag seems a bit subdued--this scene is funnier when the actor has a bigger beer belly. Gretha Boston does the usual Bloody Mary shtick very well, and the chorus is full of vim.

Set designer Derek McLane's beaches are beautiful, but the look of the distant island in the background never quite matches the magic conjured up by "Bali H'ai." Scott Faris directed.

*

"South Pacific," Wilshire Theatre, 8440 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills. Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 and 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Ends July 21. $42-$67. (213) 365-3500. Running time: 2 hours, 25 minutes.

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