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Review: ``South Pacific'' at New Mexico Tech, Apr. 24--25, 1998

This review appeared in the Socorro El Defensor Chieftain of April 29, 1998.


``South Pacific'' earns its anchor

by Valerie Kimble, El Defensor Chieftain staff

A nice ensemble cast and a hard working orchestra did a great job of staging ``South Pacific'' last weekend, turning the Macey Center stage into a tropical paradise, if only for a night or two.

Doug Dunston's troupes moved sets back and forth and never missed a beat in recreating Rodgers and Hammerstein's Broadway classic for a Socorro audience.

To buy the story, one has to believe in the chemistry between the young Nellie Forbush and her ``mature'' suitor, Emile deBecque, played by Tracy Depue and Grant Coble, both seniors at New Mexico Tech.

She was credibly naive and sweet, and he was believably gallant and middle aged (my daughter couldn't believe the deBecque character was in real life a college student), and so the play was properly anchored in both personality and voice.

Depue-Coble made a cute stage couple and performed some touching duets.

Enough schmaltzing. The first rousing scene rightfully belonged to the oddest collection of sailors ever assembled on a deck---even the deck of a stage. Not to pick favorites, but Stewpot (John Shipman) was particularly amusing, and it was a delight to see Betty Clark amid the sailor chorus.

Two actors deserve special recognition: Elya Arrasmith in her ``dream role'' of the native Bloody Mary and David Bonal as the sailor Luther Billis.

Both clearly relished their roles and drew the audience into their performances.

Arrasmith, who according to the program enjoys ``random artsy stuff,'' has had some stage experience; ``South Pacific'' was Bonal's theatrical debut.

Part of the fun of community theater is taking a peek at the program to see what the characters do in real life, and it was a surprise to find that Bonal is an electrical engineering and computer science guy.

There goes the stereotype. Bonal took over shortly into the second act with a grass skirt dance and incredible comedic timing, and the good mood spread across the stage and into the audience (where more than a few of Bonal's pals were hiding).

A resonant voice and larger-than-life facial expressions helped the student carry off a coveted character role.

In short, he was great (and did a nice tummy dance as well).

Warren Marts gets a vote as a character with whom the more mature in the audience could relate. He was commanding and funny all at once, and had some great lines about the passage of time. (Trivia: In real life he is married to Socorro physician Eileen Comstock.)

The Bali Ha'i version of can-can girls were a real show-stopper, and Holliday and Brian Cain, the children who open ``South Pacific,'' performed well.

Keep in mind there's another theatrical offering this weekend: ``Hamlet'' on Friday and Saturday nights at the Garcia Opera House.

The one thing that makes community theater worthwhile is an appreciative audience, so keep that in mind when planning what do to this Friday and Saturday nights.

Make believe is unbelievably fun.


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John W. Shipman, john@nmt.edu
Last updated: 1998/04/30 03:46:10
URL: http://www.nmt.edu/~shipman/music/19980425.html