Let’s be honest. When you go to a community theatre production of “South Pacific”, there is a slight fear that there will be 5 Seabees (two are women dressed like men), and 15 nurses on the beach. But that didn’t happen at Rabbit Run Theatre, touted as Ohio’s Premier Barn Theatre. Thanks to Executive Director Brint Learned, and a solid production directed by Brenden Sandham, I would have to agree. My first trip to Madison, OH was a delight.
The Pulitzer Prize winning “South Pacific” is one of the greatest musicals of the 20th century. Music by Richard Rogers, Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II and Book by Oscar Hammerstein II and Joshua Logan. Adapted from the Pulitzer Prize winning novel “Tales of the South Pacific” by James Michener. Set during World War II, this is a tale of love, but also, a reality check on racism.
There are two love stories that permeate South Pacific. The first between nurse Nellie Forbush (Lindsey Sandham Leonard) and the middle ages expatriate French planter Emile de Becque (Brian Altman). Leonard is beautiful as Nellie, not only in physicality, but the ability to portray sweetness with a contentious edge, all while communicating with a beautiful voice. Leonard is solid and makes a great pairing with Altman’s dynamic and regal Emile de Becque. Altman handles the accent with deft consistency, which enables the audience to fully connect with his character and be swept into the story. Blessed with a beautiful voice, he pulls us along as he pursues his heart and security for his children Ngana and Jeannette (adorably played by Katrina and Stephanie Melika). The chemistry between Leonard and Altman is wonderful. Both are on their A game.
The second love story follows Lt. Joseph Cable (Lincoln Sandham) and a young Tonkinese girl named Liat (Carly Post). Though Liat never speaks, Post beautifully conveys innocence, and is charmingly expressive as she interprets “Happy Talk.” Sandham has an engaging voice, and displays his affections and his great determination well, as he delivers the show’s right hook “You’ve got to be carefully taught.”
Authority is cast perfectly with Greg Gnau and Tom Hill, as Captain George Brackett and Commander William Harbison respectively. They inhabit these characters with solid choices, male bravado, and even create some humorous moments with their impeccable delivery when they let loose.
The sailors are a blast, and certainly a keg party waiting to happen. Christopher Carabatta, Tyler Cogar, Ian Jones, Kyle Lorek, Chris Meyers, Tim Shinkle, and Tyler Collins are the Seabee culprits. Fantastic comradery, and endless kinetic craziness. Nurses are not short on looks or talent as well. Dawn Bodnar, Nora DeMilta, Jackie DiFrangia, Emma George, Maggie Gnau, Paige Heidrich, Vanessa Pintabona, Molly Royer, and Victoria Larrabee represent well, with strong vocal and confident hoofing.
Director Brenden Sandham does a great job assembling quality performers and keeping the pace fresh. Musical Director Edward Leonard offers a welcome orchestra pit that delivered. Choreographer Jennifer Leinweber Ritz provided athletic, crisp dance that engaged the audience. Stage Manager Nichole Vencl called a great show. Technical Director Paul Gatzke pulled elements together with fine precision. Solid Lighting Design from Brandon Carlson. Scenic Designer Chris Meyer provided great use of the space, great looks, and let us in on his affection for camouflage. For the most part, Tom Linsenmeier provided good sound design, however, it was hard to hear some actors through the stronger instrumental moments. Costume Designer Karen Ziegler delivered first rate looks.
It was truly a pleasure to finally see a show at Rabbit Run Theatre. It is well worth the trip.
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$19-$21 Reserved Seating
Rabbit Run Theater
5648 W. Chapel Rd.
Madison, OH 44057