Riverside actors perform in classic show

southpacificimage.jpg By Bob Sokolsky
Special to InstantRiverside.com

To borrow, and slightly twist, those venerable lines from an even more venerable Army ballad — old musicals never die. Neither do they fade away. Most of them simply land upon the stage of the Landis Performing Arts Center.

That’s not entirely true, of course. But it happens often enough to lead to such a conclusion. and that is really not a bad thing. Especially when the grizzled veteran happens to be Performance Riverside’s “South Pacific.”

“South Pacific” debuted in 1949.

The show is a lyrical adaptation of James Michener’s “Tales of the South Pacific” and it still has most of its theatrical chops and the ones that are missing are hardly being noticed.

The show opened Saturday night at Landis. One seemingly chronic Landis problem — a sound sytem that tends to distort singing voices — especially female singing voices and, more especially, from the stage left area. Happily, this doesn’t happen all the time. Another source of minor trouble is an overly long first act director/choreographer Roger Castellano has been almost able to control with an effective and energetic sense of pacing.

“South Pacific” focuses on a Navy nurse, assigned to an island during World War II

Other saving factors can be found in the basically decent, albeit sometime uneven performances of Alyssa Marie and John LaLonde. She portrays the innocent Navy nurse from Little Rock, assigned to a remote Pacific island during World War II. While there she meets a dashing middle-aged French planter, played by LaLonde. Love blooms. So does racism when she learns that his deceased first wife was a Polynesian woman, the mother of his two children. It takes about seven good musical numbers before that problem is fully faced.

The show is a fitting partner for such still effective Landis offerings as “Man of La Mancha,” “The King and I” and “a Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.”

And it is still touching most of the right bases with such permanent hit tunes as “Nothing Like a Dame” and “I”m Gonna Wash That Man Right Out of My Hair,” all delivered by performers recruited more for their vocal rather than dramatic or comic talents.

“South Pacific,” 8 p.m. Sept. 26, 2 and 8 p.m. Sept. 27,  2 p.m. Sept. 28;  Landis Performing Arts Center, RCC City Campus, 4800 Magnolia Ave., Riverside. $25-$43. (951) 222-8100.

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

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