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Lessons of ‘South Pacific’

Lodi Musical Theater brings “South Pacific,” the play that almost wasn’t, to Hutchins Street Square, with local Polynesian dancers, audience participation and a wine night

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Nicole Warren

Posted: Saturday, September 4, 2010 12:00 am

We’ve seen “West Side Story” and “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” and now Lodi musical theater is bringing the Broadway hit, “South Pacific” to the Hutchins Street Square stage.

Director Nicole Warren and the 45 cast members weren’t sure the production would open for it’s mid-September debut when the theater almost closed earlier this year due to the economy.

“We really struggled with South Pacific,” said Warren, adding that the show was only made possible by the local businesses that donated everything from money to props and supplies for sets. “We barely raised enough to put this show on the stage.”

Though it was a close call for all involved, Warren is confident more of the Lodi community will want to help with upcoming productions by Lodi Musical Theater, including next year’s “Fiddler on the Roof,” after they see “South Pacific.”

Though “South Pacific” is a deep story that deals with both racism and the tragedies of World War II, Warren chose the play because it is a definite comedy.

“We did a very heavy show with “West Side Story,” so I was looking for something that was more light hearted,” she said.

The play takes place on an island in the South Pacific during World War II. Dealing with themes from overcoming racial prejudices and skin color, to the importance of love, “South Pacific” follows the story of two romances. There is a French character who falls in love with a Southern belle nurse. His children are from his former Polynesian wife, and their race is a conflict for the nurse.

The second love story is between a Marine and a Pacific Islander. Because he is prejudice, he struggles with the idea of marrying her.

Though the themes are heavy — and ahead of its time, as Warren points out — there is a comedic relief throughout the production that is critical.

“Life is either funny or we’ve got a problem. It’s rare that life is just, blah. In this musical, you see both extremes,” she said. “We wouldn’t be able to get through the musical with such a heavy theme (without the comedy) ... You leave the show recognizing that the show had a lesson.”

In addition to the comedy, the show is filled with dancing and singing. For this play, Lodi Musical Theater partnered with Anapa Nui, the Lodi-based Polynesian dance team that operates under the direction of Aka (Art) and Kathy Coleman. The group that has been together for about five years and will perform Hawaiian, Tehitian and Somoan dancing in “South Pacific.” Unlike any plays before, the Polynesian dancers will also dance in the lobby as guests enter the theater.

With a young couple and an older couple, as well as a timeless story, the play caters to all age groups.

Warren says the show appeals especially to the senior theater goer. While the show is perfect for children, it offers an older generation nostalgia of the World War II times.

Lodi Musical Theater will also kick off its new event, a wine-tasting event before the Sept. 23 show. Warren hopes The Sterling Show Wine Event, for those 55 and over, will become a bi-annual event.

Contact Lodi Living editor Lauren Nelson at laurenn@lodinews.com.

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