What happens when you meld together performers from the “top destination for any student who wants to study musical theatre,” one of the leading orchestras in the world, and a recognized classic of the American theater lexicon? You get a production starring past and present Baldwin Wallace University’s Music Theatre program (supplemented by a few guests), the Cleveland Orchestra (under the baton of Andy Einhorn), and “South Pacific” by Rogers and Hammerstein.
As the huge audience at Blossom Center’s August 24th concert found out, the combination resulted in “Some Enchanted Evening.”
Baldwin Wallace University’s Musical Theatre program, under the direction of recent Cleveland Arts Prize winner, Victoria Bussert, has been nationally acclaimed. It regularly has its students appearing on Broadway, off-Broadway, on national stages, and on cruise ships, while producing outstanding works on its own campus, Play House Square, Beck Center and Great Lakes Theater. It is one of the area’s academic jewels.
The Cleveland Orchestra continually is ranked among the great orchestras in the world and its homes, Severance Hall and Blossom Center, have received national acclaim.
Multi-Tony winning “South Pacific,” composed by Richard Rogers, with lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, and book by Hammerstein and Joshua Logan, is based on the Pulitzer Prize winning “Tales of the South Pacific” by James Michener.
As with other Rogers and Hammerstein musical works, “South Pacific” contains a strong progressive sociological message. In this show it is a treatise on racism, as brilliantly illustrated by the show’s theme song, “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught.”
“The plot centers on an American nurse stationed on a South Pacific island during World War II, who falls in love with a middle-aged expatriate French plantation owner but struggles to accept his mixed-race children. A secondary romance, between a U.S. lieutenant and a young Tonkinese woman, explores his fears of the social consequences should he marry his Asian sweetheart. Supporting characters, including a comic petty officer and the Tonknese girl's delightful mother, help to tie the stories together.”
The in-concert presentation, with only suggestions of costumes and no set, had a cast consisting of BWU students in supporting roles and professional performers, some with that school’s roots, combined for a wonderful evening of the score’s enrapturing, often delightful songs including, “Dites-Moi,” “A Cockeyed Optimist,” “Bloody Mary,” “There’s Nothing Like a Dame,” “Bali Ha’i,” “Younger Than Springtime,” and “This is How It Feels.”
The cast included Kailey Boyle (Nellie), Gordia Hayes (Billes), Elliot Madore (Emile), Loretta Ables Sayre (Bloody Mary), Ryan Silverman (Cable) and Hanako Walrath (Liat).
The show was directed by Victoria Bussert.
Side note: If the orchestra is going to continue such collaborations, it needs to develop storyboards and a script of camera shots to fit the performance. As is, the new, state-of-the-art, LED screen images were distracting as there was not coordination between who was performing and the images projected. Overheard were many negative comments from the audience members about this aspect of the program.
CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: The in-concert “South Pacific,” a combined work, presented by The Cleveland Orchestra and Baldwin Wallace Music Theatre Program, was an enjoyable experience, which both broadened the reach of the orchestra and gave the students a chance to experience working with theater professionals and performing with one of the world’ great orchestras. The projected images created a negative impression.
The 2019 Blossom Music Festival concludes on August 30,31 and September 1 @ 7:30 with Star Wars Film Concert Series,” “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back,” the feature film with live orchestra.
Next up for BW: (November 12-24) KINKY BOOTS Victoria Bussert directs the multi-Tony winning musical by Cyndi Lauper and Harvey Fierstein. First amateur production of the still running on Broadway script. For tickets call 440-826-2240 or go to www.bw.edu/tickets