‘South Pacific’ brings beloved songs and thought-provoking questions to Guild stage

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Photos courtesy of the Wayne State University Maggie Allesee Department of Theatre and Dance “Peter Pan” flies into Wayne State University’s Bonstelle Theatre for two weekends, Nov. 14 to 23, with Maggie Beson (top) of Riverview as Peter Pan and Shannon Hurst of Warren as Wendy.

Photos courtesy of the Wayne State University Maggie Allesee Department of Theatre and Dance
“Peter Pan” flies into Wayne State University’s Bonstelle Theatre for two weekends, Nov. 14 to 23, with Maggie Beson (top) of Riverview as Peter Pan and Shannon Hurst of Warren as Wendy.

Rodgers and Hammerstein’s beloved musical “South Pacific” continues the Players Guild of Dearborn’s 87th season at the playhouse, 21730 Madison in Dearborn.

The show runs Nov. 14 to Dec. 7, with special $10 ticket pricing for veterans and active military personnel and one guest on Dec. 7 in honor of Pearl Harbor Day. For tickets and more information, call 313-561-TKTS or go to playersguildofdearborn.org.

Brian Townsend and Julie Malloy of Dearborn are the director and musical director, respectively, with Laura Tyler of Canton Township as the choreographer.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning musical, set on an island paradise during World War II, centers on two romances threatened by the vagrancies of war as well as racial prejudice.

The score includes musical theater favorites “Some Enchanted Evening,” “Bali Ha’i,” “There is Nothing Like a Dame” and “I’m Gonna Wash that Man Right Outa My Hair.”

Townsend said “South Pacific,” which premiered in 1949 with Rodgers and Hammerstein’s sweeping score, is an iconic musical familiar to audiences.

Set during World War II, Townsend said the amazing story of “The Greatest Generation” was timely and current when it premiered and brought to light questions of ageism, racism and sexism that were progressive for its time.

“Our production is going to touch upon all of those same issues and present some of them in a slightly different light,” Townsend said. “So it is not just merely ‘South Pacific,’ but it is actually a story with heart and grit and substance, about how our own personal prejudices prevent us from finding the happiness that we need or the happiness for others, as well as the need for community in order to get over certain obstacles.”

Townsend said that while today’s audiences might not view Emile’s biracial children as being as significant as Nellie Forbush and audiences in 1949 did, it might get audiences to think about prejudices prevalent today.

“Unfortunately I think it can still be related to other types of prejudices where people take issue with whom someone decides to love, or with whom someone decides to spend their life,” Townsend said. “And while it may not get to them at first, it may sink in as the scene progresses, when that reveal happens and we see Nellie struggle herself with what the issue is.”

Mike Moseley of Allen Park, who plays Emile de Becque, said his character is a man of great integrity who has a real sense of appropriateness about human relationships, fairness and justice. He feels modern audiences will not relate to Nellie’s bias against his biracial children the same way audiences did when the show debuted 65 years ago.

“I think what they will relate to in Emile is his lack of understanding and his hurt,” Moseley said. “She breaks his heart. He knows what a wonderful person she is, so this does not fit.

“I think that was one of the messages that Rodgers and Hammerstein had for this show, is these attitudes do not fit good people. If you consider yourself a good person, if you are good to others and you are sharing, and kind, and all those things, and then you have this, you know, a racist – it doesn’t fit, and that is appropriate. It does not fit. It has no place.”

Kevin Talanges of Dearborn plays Lt. Joseph Cable, an officer who struggles with his feelings for Liat, a beautiful Polynesian woman.

Talanges said he thinks significant prejudice still exists today with respect to interracial relationships.

He said his challenge playing Cable is trying to relate to a Marine during World War II. He said his grandfather’s stories of military service during the Vietnam era have helped him understand his character’s military perspective.

Talanges said he encourages people to view the show as a chance to step back in time for a few hours.

“You will view the determination and importance of risk taking, love, and home through the eyes of many different people at the time of WWII,” Talanges said.

Alyssa Alonte of Brownstown Township, who plays Liat, said she thinks people are more tolerant of interracial relationships today that they were during the 1940s.

She said her biggest challenge playing Liat is learning her character’s French dialogue.

Alonte said she tells friends the musical’s songs are appealing.

“My favorite musical number is when all the men sing, ‘There is Nothing Like a Dame,’” Alonte said. “I tell people that they will see that number and end up walking out of the theater singing it themselves.”

Other cast members include Dearborn residents Phil Booth as Cmdr. William Harbison; Will Turbett as the Professor; Abdel-Raouf El-Alami as Henry; Alia Elhajj as Jerome; Ben Apostle as a sailor; and Amy Moore, Melissa Foster, Katelyn Harrison, Casey Irwin and Meg Kisch as nurses.

Dearborn Heights residents in the cast include Jamie Paschke as Ngana, and Janeen Bodary and Amanda Chatila as nurses.

Also included are Tom Sparrow of Allen Park as Capt. George Brackett; William Dunn of Taylor as a sailor; Kenyada Davis of Detroit as Stewpot; Garden City residents Tom Davis as Luther Billis, Chris Washburn as a sailor, and Mary Davis as Lt. Genevieve Marshall; Livonia residents Colleen Meade Ripper as Bloody Mary, and Tim Carney and Jeff Lokken as sailors; Carissa Madley of Redford Township as a nurse; and Kathleen Duffy of Royal Oak as Ensign Nellie Forbush.

LOCAL STUDENTS STAR IN WSU’S ‘PETER PAN’
Maggie Beson of Riverview plays Peter, the boy who “won’t grow up” in the non-musical version of “Peter Pan” Nov. 14 to 23 at Wayne State’s Bonstelle Theater, 3424 Woodward at Eliot in Detroit.

Other local actors in the cast include Dearborn residents Samantha York and Irenie Froman as Mrs. Darling and Jane, respectively, and Trenton resident Anna Busse as an Indian and mermaid.

Actors will fly with the help of aerial specialists Hall and Associates as they wing their way to Neverland.

Tickets are $15 and $20, with $10 student rush tickets available at the door. For more information, call 313-577-2960 or go to wsushows.com.

Show times are 7 p.m. Nov. 14, 15, 21 and 22, and 2 p.m. Nov. 15, 16, 22 and 23. For tickets to the 10 a.m. Nov. 19 and 20 school performances, call 313-577-0852.

To avoid the Woodward construction, use John R. or Cass.

‘MOTOWN THE MUSICAL’ A HIT AT THE FISHER
If you groove to the Motown sound, you will not want to miss “Motown the Musical” playing through Nov. 16 at the Fisher Theater in Detroit.

For tickets, call 800-982-2787 or go to broadwayindetroit.com or ticketmaster.com.

The story of Berry Gordy Jr. and Motown records, filled with the music of Smokey Robinson, Diana Ross and the Supremes, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson and more is musical magic. As you hear a song’s opening notes, you’ll smile as you mentally play “what’s that tune,” and smile when you recognize a favorite.

The talented cast makes you feel like you are seeing the original stars for the first time.

As the music works its magic, you will soak in the gorgeous costumes from the 1950s to the present day, and see a kaleidoscope of color as the sets change as quickly as the tunes.

From “My Girl” to “My Guy,” from “ABC” to “Mercy, Mercy Me,” you will be swept away by the musical memories as you recall when the songs played a role in your own life.

Attending Wednesday night were Gordy, Robinson, Wonder and Martha Reeves, which thrilled patrons in the house.

Motown broke down barriers while it provided a unique soundtrack for our lives and crossed racial lines as people began to move to the same beat.