ISO’s ‘South Pacific’ In Concert Captivates With Its Allure

May 13, 2024



L-R  Nathan Gunn & Gianna Claire Mason – Courtesy of Tom Russo. Used with permission.

It amazes me that Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein’s “South Pacific” which premiered on Broadway in 1949, endures as a classic musical with a message about racism that was ahead of its time and, sadly, still resonates today. Along with a full house at Hilbert Circle Theatre, I saw a concert production of the musical last Saturday evening. Led by Principal Pops Conductor Jack Everly, the show was presented by the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra (ISO), featuring Broadway performers along with the Indianapolis Men’s Chorus (IMC).

L-R Melanie Carrie & Nick Adams – Courtesy of Tom Russo. Used with permission.

Written by Josh Logan, the socially conscious musical’s book centers on an American nurse, Nellie Forbush (Ginna Claire Mason), stationed on a South Pacific Island during World War II. Nellie falls in love with a middle-aged French expatriate plantation owner, Emile de Becque (Nathan Gunn), but struggles to accept his mixed-race children. A secondary romance also figures in, between U.S. Marine Lieutenant Joseph Cable (Nick Adams) and a young Tonkinese woman, Liat  – (Melanie Carrié). Like Nellie, Cable fears social disapproval should he marry outside of his race. The issue of racial prejudice looms large throughout the musical. Supporting characters, including comic petty officer Luther Billis (Jim Hogan) and Liat’s mother, Bloody Mary (NaTatasha Yvette Williams), help to weave the narrative.

Most Broadway musicals these days have fewer than twenty musicians in the pit, so it was a special opportunity to hear the full ISO so splendidly interpret Richard Rodgers’ lush, romantic score, consisting of such favorites as “A Cockeyed Optimist,” “Bali Ha’i,” “Younger than Springtime,” “This Nearly Was Mine,” and the classic “Some Enchanted Evening.” Each cast member, including those in the large ensemble, turned in a first-rate vocal performance.

NaTasha Yvette Williams – Courtesy of Tom Russo. Used with permission.

The IMC stood out for their talent and professionalism. An all-volunteer group, they presented themselves in a manner that makes it hard to believe they are avocational performers. I was especially impressed with their animated characterizations of rambunctious sailors stationed on the island. It is no wonder they keep garnering the community’s attention, performing regularly alongside the ISO, and with the likes of Josh Groban and, most recently, Andrea Bocelli.

I cannot say enough positive things about Jennifer Ladner’s major contributions as the show’s director and for her polished staging. Also, the show’s choreographer, Ladner’s dances were period perfect. Greg Sanders (also the IMC’s Artistic Director) delivered elegant and precise vocal direction. Also notable was Philip C. Sneed’s excellent scene direction. Adding to the quality of the production was longtime ISO designer extraordinaire Claire Henkel, whose costumes were always spot on. Responsible for the overall near perfection of this emotionally satisfying and highly entertaining theatrical achievement was Executive Producer Ty A. Johnson.

photo: Josh Humble

About Tom

Journalist, producer, director, Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker, arts administrator, TV contributor, actor, model, writer and lyricist, Tom Alvarez has had an extensive career in media and the fine arts and continues to be an enthusiastic and devoted fan of both. His passion and unique background grant him insight, access and perspective to cover, promote and review the arts in Indianapolis, Central Indiana and beyond. Follow him on social media @tomalvarezartswriter and @tomalvarez1.

Alvarez has been writing about theatre, dance, music, cinema and visual arts for 40 years. His work has appeared in the Indianapolis Star, NUVO, Indianapolis Monthly, Arts Indiana, Unite Magazine, Dance Magazine, NOTE Magazine, and, among many other print and online platforms. A former contributor to Across Indiana on WFYI-TV, he currently has a regular performing arts segment on WISH-TV’s Life. Style. Live!

A principal of Klein & Alvarez Productions, LLC, Alvarez co-created “Calder, The Musical” and is the managing director of Magic Thread Cabaret. As an actor-model, he has appeared in numerous TV and print ads and is represented by the Helen Wells Agency and Heyman Talent Artists Agency.

On the Aisle Team

  • Creation, content, and publishing: Tom Alvarez
  • Graphic design:- Casey Ross
  • Web development: Clay Mabbitt

Leave a comment

* required field