Symphony, Easy Street Will Team Up for ‘South Pacific’

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — With the success of “Guys and Dolls” still fresh in theatergoers’ memories, the Youngstown Symphony Orchestra and Easy Street Productions will again team up for a concert version of a musical.

This time, it will be “South Pacific” and it will be performed two times at Powers Auditorium: Nov. 2 at 7:30 p.m. and Nov. 3 at 2:30 p.m.

The orchestra and Easy Street presented “Guys and Dolls” in February. It not only was their first collaboration, but the first concert version of a production in the area.

A concert version is basically a streamlined version of a musical. It does not use the entire script and the actors are in costume. But scenery and choreography are pared down and there is an increased emphasis on the music and the orchestra.

With about 40 members of the orchestra on stage, “Guys and Dolls” was performed just once but it sold out the 2,300-seat Powers. It was such a crowd pleaser that the Symphony Society immediately started looking for another concert version to present.

Easy Street’s director, Todd Hancock, said “South Pacific” was chosen for three reasons: demand, music and relevance.

“A lot of titles weren’t available because of the resurgence of revivals on Broadway and as tours,” he said, noting that it wasn’t until a week ago that his application to produce “South Pacific” was approved. “Also, any concert version has got to have a score worthy of an orchestra, and this one has the greatest score.”

Although “South Pacific” is 70 years old, it deals with topics that are very current.

“The main theme is that the characters are struggling with prejudice,” Hancock said. “That’s kind of a hot topic now, so this is a good time to take another look.”

While “South Pacific” premiered in 1949, it was ahead of its time, Hancock said. “The song ‘You’ve Got to be Carefully Taught’ is all about prejudice, and when it first toured through the South, some wanted the song cut, but the producers wouldn’t let them do it,” he said.

Tickets for “South Pacific” will go on sale Thursday at 10 a.m. at YoungstownSymphony.com, by phone at 330 744 0264 and at the DeYor Performing Arts Center box office, 260 W. Federal St., downtown.

Three of the four leads from “Guys and Dolls” will be back for “South Pacific.” Elysia Jordan will play the role of Nellie Forbush, Alan Snyder will play Emile de Becque and John Cox will play Luther Billis.

Jordan, a Canfield native and New York resident who was part of the “School of Rock” Broadway tour last year, and Pittsburgh-based Snyder of the “Phantom of the Opera” national tour are both professional actors.

David Toole, another Pittsburgh-based professional, has been cast as Lt. Cable.

Youngstown native Natalia Lepore Hagan, who was a part of the U.S. tour of “42nd Street,” had a key role in “Guys and Dolls” but her schedule would not permit her to return.

The same creative team that staged “Guys and Dolls” will return for “South Pacific.” Joining Hancock is Don Yallech is as musical director and Megan Cleland as choreographer. Randall Craig Fleischer will reprise his role as music director and conductor of the Youngstown Symphony Orchestra.

Because the musical version of “South Pacific” requires a huge investment in scenery, it is rarely done on the community theater level. But the concert version simplifies the set and uses projected images and scenery, which makes it easier to stage.

The YSO and Easy Street plan to present another concert version of a musical in May, but a title hasn’t been chosen yet.

Based on James Michener’s Pulitzer Prize-winning collection of short stories “Tales of the South Pacific,” Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Pulitzer Prize-winning blockbuster musical was a landmark of post-World War II Broadway.

In 2005, it was adapted into a concert version that premiered at New York’s Carnegie Hall with country music star Reba McEntire, as well as Broadway and Hollywood icons Brian Stokes Mitchell and Alec Baldwin in the principal roles.

Considered to be among the greatest musicals of the 20th century, the original Broadway production won 10 Tony Awards. Many of its songs went on to have a life of their own outside of the musical, including “Some Enchanted Evening,” “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair,” “Happy Talk,” “Bali Ha’i,” “Younger than Springtime,” and “I’m in Love with a Wonderful Guy.”

The musical inspired a 1958 film adaptation and has enjoyed numerous successful revivals on Broadway and the West End.

The setting is an island paradise during World War II, where two parallel love stories are threatened by prejudice and war.

Arkansas native Nellie Forbush befriends and quickly falls for Emile de Becque, a French expatriate and plantation owner, and Lt. Joe Cable finds himself falling in love with the beautiful island native Liat, the young daughter of local souvenir merchant Bloody Mary.

As the war against Japan escalates, reality sets in for both Americans, who find themselves struggling to reconcile their own cultural prejudices with their amorous feelings, all the while under the dark cloud of a war that is coming ever closer.

Pictured: Leads from “Guys and Dolls” were Elysia Jordan, Allan Snyder, John Cox and Natalia Lepore Hagan. Jordan, Snyder and Cox are returning for “South Pacific.” (Image: Easy Street Productions).

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.