Lush “South Pacific” on tour, Wharton Center, East Lansing (Review)

See it! Run, don’t walk. Sure, every college and community theatre across America has done South Pacific, but you haven’t seen it like this, and you haven’t heard it like this.

I first saw this production of South Pacific at the Vivian Beaumont Theater at Lincoln Center last season. I instantly fell in love with the current production from the moment the stage floor slid open and revealed the full orchestra beneath during the Overture. You don’t have that in this tour production, but the music still sounds fantastic, and the show looks gorgeous.

Slightly scaled down from the vast Beaumont stage in NYC, the sets are faithful recreations, and it’s quite amazing how well the show fills the Wharton space. It’s all beautifully lit, and the sound design is terrific.

Chalk it all up to crisp, imaginative, and slick direction by Bartlett Sher and a wonderful tour cast, led by Carmen Cusack as Nellie and Christopher Carl as Emile. The ensemble is strong, and they sound great backed by a full 25-piece orchestra. (Compare that to the normal tour orchestras that are usually 11 pieces).

The message of South Pacific rings as true today as it did in 1949 — in fact, so much of this production is spot-on that it’s hard to remember this is a 61-year old show. By the time Cable and Emile fly off on their spy mission and the stage fills with strategic maps and war-room activity, the pulse starts to pound, and the tears soon start to flow.

Go see this show. Miss it, and you will have missed one of the finest Broadway productions of the decade. Go. You will thank yourself later.

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