|Tiana Marks and Steven Enriquez|
Photo by Memory Layne Photography
Click here for more information on this production that runs through November 6th.
"Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II often incorporated important social issues into their musicals. For their exceptional South Pacific, the duo covered racial prejudices and the politics of war in a succinct yet forward way. While these topics are very adult in nature, the production of the musical at Spotlight Youth Theatre shows that a talented cast of teens is more than adept in tackling these serious issues in this solid, rewarding, and extremely intimate production....Tiana Marks does an exceptional job as Nellie. She has the most range to play as this young and slightly naive woman, and Marks navigates her way with ease through Nellie's budding fascination with Emile, to her compassion for her fellow service men and women and the ingrained racism that she is forced to confront when it rears its ugly head....It is a knock out performance on par with other much older actresses I've seen play this part. As Emile, Steven Enriquez is also very good. He has a strong, solid stage presence that helps to portray this serious man. ..He and Marks form a realistic romantic pair, both effective in how they are enamored by the other, which makes us root for them to succeed. ...the loud mouth, animated Bloody Mary (Issie Ocampo) conspiring to find a man for her daughter Liat (Phoenix Cyphert) from the many U.S. military men she comes in contact with. Mary thinks she has found him in the handsome Lt. Joseph Cable (Vinny Pugliese), but all doesn't go as planned. Pugliese delivers a straightforward approach with a hint of cockiness in smart, rich lieutenant. His two solos, a soaring and lush "Younger Than Springtime" and the forceful and biting "You've Got to Be Carefully Taught," hit all the right marks. Ocampo has a beautiful singing voice but she doesn't attempt much of an accent for Mary, which is a bit of a distraction...Devon Policci is fine as Luther Billis, the always planning and conspiring leader of the Seabees who is fascinated with the rituals of the natives and making a fast buck but also somewhat infatuated with Nellie. Policci has a clear stage presence and good line delivery and his love and admiration for Nellie is expertly shown, though he occasionally is a little too broad in his humor. Alex Demski delivers a solid performance of Captain Brackett, the perfectly military man who also has a bit of a sensitive side. Charlie Rabago is equally as good as Commander Harbison, Brackett's right hand man. This is another exceptional directing effort by Kenny Grossman. He has clearly guided his large, young cast so they all create realistic, fleshed out, and nuanced characters. While a few may occasionally deliver a comic moment a bit too broad or be on the cusp of overacting a line, they never do so without being fully invested in their characters. The intimacy of the small Spotlight space also lets the emotional characters and the harsh realities of the racially charged story strongly resonate. ...three large paintings by Bobby Sample on the walls that surround the stage help to evoke the tropical setting, and the seascape backdrop is lush and romantic with a stunning shimmering moonlight effect that appears in the second act. Audrey Wawro's costumes are bright, colorful, and period appropriate and Josh Hontz's lighting uses shadows and a range of hues from bright to dark to portray both the heat of the day and the romantic, shadowy mystery of this faraway land. Trey DeGroodt's hair and make-up designs are superb, with all of the women exhibiting the look of the 1940s. The only quibble is that Pugliese's long hair wouldn't have exactly been a Marine regulation cut. Chock-full of many showstopping numbers, South Pacific is a sensational musical but also one that seriously explores two parallel stories that deal with race and interracial relationships. With a young but talented cast, excellent direction, and superb creative aspects, the Spotlight Youth Theatre production is a solid, entertaining and emotionally charged presentation of this groundbreaking musical. " -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)
"...Loosely based on three of (james) Michener’s tales...writer (Oscar) Hammerstein ll...crafted a tale of love, fear, heroism and racial intolerance, all set to a dreamy backdrop of palm trees, blue skies and the lapping waves of the Pacific Ocean, while the dangers of World War ll raged on islands nearby. That setting is nicely captured on the stage of Spotlight Youth Theatre, Peoria where the epic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical is now performing until November 6. Set against designer Bobby Sample’s detailed painted backdrop of a Pacific island beach..it’s not altogether difficult to understand why SYT would tackle such an adult project arguably not altogether suited to a youth theatre presentation. ..director Kenny Grossman is hardly one to shy away from a challenge, and for that reason alone he should be congratulated. But ...this new SYT production has some issues of its own....the entire SYT ensemble have tackled this difficult production with an energy not always seen on a professional stage. ...Yet, the overall impression left after Sunday’s performance of South Pacific by SYT is this: there’s still work to be done....Much of the comedy from the men of the navy’s Construction Battalion, the CB’s, is often in danger of being over-played with over-the-top, broad gestures, while elements of confrontational drama are played too angrily with unnecessary raised voices,...Leading the ensemble and holding the production together is Tiana Marks, who with her soft, southern accent from small town Arkansas makes a striking Nellie Forbush... So, too is Vinny Pugliese as young marine officer Lt. Cable,..Their characters are the most rounded and find themselves faced with the show’s biggest emotional conflict. ...Issie Ocampo as Bloody Mary whose rendition of Bali Ha’i was nothing short of haunting, and ...Steven Enriquez as Emile De Becque...his singing voice came through loud and clear...With great and even powerful singing support from both the men and women during the ensemble numbers such as There is Nothin’ Like A Dame from the sailors and I’m Gonna Wash That Man from the nurses, the songs and choreography under Mark and Lynzee 4man’s direction are what elevates the show. SYT’s presentation of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic deserves local audience support, but while the musical moments remain fine, at this early stage of its run, it needs production tightening on the drama in order to be considered goo " -David Appleford, Valley Screen and Stage (click here to read the complete review)