The Averitt STARs is bringing one of the most well-known musicals of all time, Rodgers and Hammerstein's "South Pacific," to the Emma Kelly Theater, with performances at 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday and a Sunday matinee at 2 p.m.
Set on a tropical island during World War II, the musical tells the romantic story of two couples whose happiness is threatened by the realities of war and their own prejudices.
Nellie, a nurse from Arkansas, falls in love with French plantation owner Emile, despite her conservative upbringing. Similarly, U.S. Lt. Cable becomes romantically involved with an island native and struggles with the idea of bringing an Asian bride home to meet his family. As the war against Japan quickly approaches their island of paradise, both Americans struggle to overcome their own cultural prejudices with their unorthodox love affairs.
Director Glenn Spell believes South Pacific is a unique story that incorporates real issues rarely explored in the theater.
"The show illustrates how people can achieve happiness by realizing that there is more to life than social mores," Spell said. "There are some serious issues addressed in the musical, but the story is really quite heartwarming."
Cast in the female lead, Nellie, is Bethany DeZelle. DeZelle currently stars in a national commercial and won best actress at the 2015 Emma Awards for her performance as Audrey in "Little Shop of Horrors." Playing Emile, Nellie's romantic counterpart, is Averitt Center veteran J.J. Crawford, who was nominated for best actor at the 2014 Emma Awards for his performance as Harold Hill in "The Music Man."
Also, Brandi Harvey, fresh off a staring roll in the production of "Dreamgirls," is the understudy for Nellie, and will perform in the Sunday matinee.
"This is the first time I have had the opportunity to work with two professional actors in both leading roles," Spell said. "It's a very sentimental thing because they're both experienced, and they completely transform into their characters."
Based on a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by James A. Michener, the original Broadway production won 10 Tony Awards and includes many memorable songs such as "Some Enchanted Evening," "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair" and "I'm in Love with a Wonderful Guy."
Alan Waters is the assistant director for the show, while musical directors are Robert Cottle and Kelly Watson, and Kaye Miller is the choreographer.
Tickets are $16 for adults ($20 for non-members) and $10 for all youth. Call the Averitt Center for the Arts at (912) 212-2787 during box office hours, or purchase tickets online at www.averittcenterforthearts.org. Box office hours are noon-5:30 p.m., Tuesday-Friday.