At times I have to remind myself the play I am being dazzled by is being performed by a bunch of high school kids. Friday night I attended “South Pacific,” and once again director Kathy King pulled off a masterpiece.
Having attended plays at the Orpheum Theatre in San Francisco, and Her Majesty’s Royal Theatre in London, as well as some traveling plays passing through Nevada — all put on by professional thespians accompanied by professional musicians — I like to flatter myself by snobbishly making judgments. Like so many “critics,” I am fully capable of writing like I know all about such things, but the truth is I cannot sing, dance or act in the least. Nevertheless, I know what sounds good, when actors seem believable, when your emotions are stirred and when productions run smoothly.
A very nice side note to this year’s play was the patriotic theme of the program. On the back were the names and a fitting tribute to three Reed High students who were killed in the Middle East: Josh Byers, Sean Michael Gault and Joshua Morberg. On the inside front cover of the program was an American flag and kind words for those serving in our armed forces. After the intermission and before the play started up again one of the cast members, “Captain Brackett” played by Ben Comstock, asked any audience members who had served in the military to stand up for a well-deserved round of applause. It was a moment not lost on the youth in the audience as the three teenage girls sitting next to my wife and I whispered how “cool” that was.
The two leading parts in the play were, of course, the Frenchman and his American nurse friend, played by Adam Semas and Melody Wilson. Both were remarkable in their performances. Semas had the added burden of having to speak and sing with a French accent. The teenager has an amazing voice with an even more astounding range, from tenor (which he displayed in a comedic scene where he mocks nurse Nellie by singing “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Out of My Hair”), to bass with a perfect rendition of “Some Enchanted Evening.” His performance was flawless, his songs delivered powerfully.
For me the best performance of the night goes to Wilson, who also had to act, dance and sing, all of which she did superbly. Her timing, facial expressions, voice inflections, musical tones and body language all were wonderfully well done.
Next in quality would be Brooke Brazil, who played “Bloody Mary.” Again being required to both act and sing with an accent, Brazil played the part well and believably, bringing a mainly lighthearted touch and a careful interaction with lonely G.I.s on an island in the Pacific. Her daughter, Liat, was played by Catherine Van, who did not have to say much, but who added a beautiful exotic touch to the cast.
Due to space limitations I cannot do justice to all the cast members, but all were either good or excellent. The performance as a whole was very well done; in fact, my wife gladly went twice to see it.
Not to be overlooked is the as-always outstanding job by the musical team, led by John Lorentzen. The Reed High music program is truly blessed to receive the help of someone as gifted as Lorentzen, his wife, Laura, and son Mark. The music was perfection and, of course, since “South Pacific” is a Rodgers and Hammerstein work, the music is arguably of equal or greater importance than the actors. The tempo, volume and the mood swings shaped by the orchestra can make or break any such production, so the touch of a musical master’s hand is needed — and was delivered.
There were a few flaws. For some reason, some of the actors did not have the headset microphones, including some with solo singing parts, which broke up the continuity. Occasionally those who had microphones had some technical difficulty, and one actor who played an officer had long hair, which detracted from his military appearance and the otherwise accurate time-era costuming. But these were minor bumps and are only offered as fodder for fine tuning future performances. Reed High School and the City of Sparks can be proud of the quality and wide range of local talent displayed. May this standard of excellence long continue.
Ira Hansen is a lifelong resident of Sparks, owner of Ira Hansen and Sons Plumbing and his radio talk show can be heard Monday through Friday from 3 to 6 p.m. on 99.1 FM.