South Pacific opened on Broadway in 1949, but even 61 years later it hasn't lost an ounce of its appeal.
That's one of the reasons Ginny Quinley jumped at the chance to direct the musical for the Richland Light Opera's first show of the 2010-11 season.
"South Pacific may be an old chestnut in the classic style of musicals, but there are a few elements that set it apart," Quinley said. "The underscoring of the music and the power in a few of the songs is mesmerizing and stirring."
Quinley also recruited talent from afar and locally for the lead characters.
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"This line-up promises to offer audiences an engaging evening," she said. "New York actor/singer Abby Walter will play Nellie, and Todd Golberg (formerly of Tri-Cities, now in Cincinnati) returns to revive his role as Emile de Beque."
As for Golberg, the role of Emile in South Pacific was too good to pass up, he said.
"This is not only a fantastic role to sing, but it's also a meaty role for an actor," he added.
Golberg performed the same role for Richland Light Opera several years ago. But now he's tackling it from a more mature perspective.
"Now that I have a few years behind me I can fully understand some of the issues and occurrences in this musical and incorporate and use it to better portray the role," he said. "I also noticed I won't need to be putting grey make-up in my hair to appear older."
Walter is a singer, actor and writer in New York City. She sang for a time with the Metropolitan Opera and mostly performs as a soloist these days, in both opera and theater productions for various companies across the country.
She also is a puppeteer, voice-over actor and model.
"Having traveled to the Tri-Cities last May to sing the Verdi Requiem with the Mid-Columbia Symphony and Mastersingers, I fell in love with the region and its people immediately," Walter said.
"I hoped to have a chance to return and perform sometime with the Richland Light Opera. To have the chance to perform a role as exciting and meaningful as Nellie in South Pacific, (well) I couldn't resist."
Some of the local talent appearing in the show includes Laura Carreno, who'll portray Bloody Mary. Carreno is a Venezuelan-born actor who's worked in television in South America since 1999. She moved to the Tri-Cities a year ago with her husband and three children.
South Pacific opened on Broadway in 1949 and went on to win a Pulitzer Prize for drama the following year, along with 10 Tony Awards, including best musical, best score, best libretto. It's the only musical ever to have won all four Tony Awards for acting and is considered by some to be one of the greatest musicals to hit Broadway, Quinley said.
There's a good reason for that, she said.
"The story is based on James Michener's book, Tales of the South Pacific, which probes prejudice in a tangible and candid way, for one," Quinley said. "The story weaves together two love stories. And to explore those relationships thoroughly and candidly was very new in 1949."
The story also provides a picture of some of the challenges and highlights of being in the service during war time.
"Underneath the popular songs in South Pacific exists a significant storyline," Golberg said. "Sometimes our jobs as performers is not only to just entertain, but also to educate. This musical does both."
Justin Raffa applies his musical expertise as music director for South Pacific and Jim Wutzke provides the scenic and set design. Mary Lou Gnoza and Verna Schwilke share costume design duties, Marlie Buriak is choreographer, Rich Mercer is technical director and Wilson Alvarez is instrumental director.
The show runs Nov. 17, 19-20 in the Richland High Auditorium. Curtain time is 8 p.m. There also will be a 2 p.m. performance Nov. 21. Tickets are $20 for adults, $18 for students and senior citizens.
The Nov. 17 performance is a designated student night where all students admission is $5. Also that night there'll be a presentation before the musical starts that will give the audience some of the history of World War II, along with information about what inspired the musical, Quinley said.
Advance tickets are available at JD's Time Center in Kennewick, Adventures Underground in Richland, the Mid-Columbia Ballet office in Richland and at www.tix.com.