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Once again, Richmond has proven that the River City has entertainment that rivals any place in the country. Virginia Repertory Theatre's production of “South Pacific” opened Friday night at the historic, November Theater on Broad Street. Located in the vibrant arts district, within steps of many fine restaurants, the Virginia Rep Center was built in 1911 in the ornate Italianate style of the time.
On opening night, a 1942 Packard Clipper sat on the sidewalk in front setting the mood of the WWII era. The grand, yet intimate, lobby was filled with photos, articles and tidbits about the brave men and women of this era.
“South Pacific” is one of the greatest musicals of all time (and only one of a handful of Pulitzer prize winners). Based on “Tales of the South Pacific” by James A. Michener, this Rodgers & Hammerstein classic is set against the beautiful but dangerous backdrop of a small island in the South Pacific after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The set created for this production is hauntingly beautiful, with high walls of bamboo, a vibrantly colored sea, and of course, the mysterious island Bali Hai in the distance.
The cast is mostly local with a few leads brought in from national arenas. Each actor is superb, showcasing the wealth of local talent that rivals New York or Chicago.
As the characters find themselves in an unfamiliar culture, the tale quickly unfolds to tell the romance of American nurse Nellie Forbush and the mysterious Frenchman, Emile de Becque. The jaw-dropping show stopper of the evening was “Some Enchanted Evening” sung with deep emotion in a deeply resonating bass voice by Branch Fields, a critically acclaimed operatic performer with smoldering good looks. Chemistry between his character and Nellie, played by Stacey Cabaj is pure magic and raw emotion.
You will cry, you will laugh and you will definitely leave with the feeling that the last few hours spent in another era and place were unforgettable.
“South Pacific” runs June 26-August 9 at the Historic November Theater, 114 West Broad Street. Tickets can be purchased online, or by calling the box office (804) 282-2620.