By Melissa Hu, 16, Ramona Convent (Alhambra)
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Carmen Cusack as Nellie (center) and the nurses.

Photo by Peter Coombs

I have never been a fan of musicals. However, I’m a history geek, and when I saw the commercial for South Pacific, a World War II-set musical playing at the Ahmanson Theater, I told myself I had to go. It was my first live musical or play, I didn’t know what to expect. The stage sets, costumes and dance choreography were stunning. The music was equally amazing. I almost forgot that everything was performed by an orchestra and sung live. But more important, it was the story that kept me engaged with the three-hour production.

The play takes place on an island in the Pacific Ocean. The main story revolves around a romance between Emile (Rod Gilfry), a Frenchman who fled France because he committed murder, and Nellie (Carmen Cusack), a young nurse from Arkansas. There’s also the American Marine Lt. Cable (Anderson Davis), who develops a relationship with a native Tonkinese girl named Liat (Sumie Maeda).

At first, Nellie is uncertain about her relationship with Emile because he never tells her anything about his past. Yet, when he decides to reveal to her that he is the widowed father of two Polynesian children, Nellie becomes angry that he had been in a relationship with a colored woman. The story between Lt. Cable and Liat is one that shows him torn between obligations of having to be a responsible in carrying out his mission in the war and prejudice. He falls in love with Liat but refuses to marry her because of her race. Although prejudices and war tear them away from their relationships, both Cable and Nellie realize they have to accept people for who they are.

I liked a lot of things about the play. My favorite actor was Anderson Davis because he had the best voice and he successfully portrayed the damaged character of Lt. Cable. I loved the song “I’m Gonna Wash that Man Right Outta My Hair” performed by Nellie and the cast of nurses because the lyrics were hilarious, “If you laugh at different comics/ If you root for different teams/ Waste no time, weep no more/ Show him what the door is for.” I also liked that the production did a good job in making sure that the historical events and costumes were depicted accurately.

Even for those who don’t like musicals, I would definitely recommend South Pacific for everyone, especially people who like a mix of humor, controversial issues, love stories and war history.

South Pacific runs through July 17
Ahmanson Theatre
135 N. Grand Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90012