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Spring musical: ‘South Pacific’ not only entertaining, but educational, too
By By Jill Meier
Challenger editor

April 03. 2013 9:16AM
A Tony Award-winning musical coming to the stage of Brandon Valley’s Performing Arts Center this week will do more than simply entertain its audiences.

It’s going to educate them as well.

Director Kevin Brick said this year’s spring musical, “South Pacific” touches on two big topics: World War II and racism.

“They really hit the racism card hard – it’s a big part of the show,” said Brick. “So everybody thought here that this would be a great opportunity for our kids to learn (about racism), so much so that Principal Talcott is bringing the whole school to our dress rehearsal today - it’s definitely not ‘Suessical.’ ”

The show’s timing ties in well with the weeklong “Be the Change” program – an extension of “Challenge Day,” which was implemented last fall – that’s going on at Brandon Valley High School. The week features a series of speakers, including Sudan native David Jai and local teens who will share their mission trip experiences, along with the powerful movie “Bully’, and the production of “South Pacific.”

“The play certainly has some overtones of ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ and of ‘power’ and ‘powerless,’ ” Talcott said. “So this awareness helps us to get a clearer view that we’re all not really that different.”

Brandon Valley senior Alex Rogen, who plays Luther Billis, said he’s gained more than just acting experience from this show.

“The main moral that it touches on is racial tendencies,” he said. “It brings you down to the level that we’re all people that need to be treated the same, and we all deserve that.”

The weeklong “Be the Change” endeavor also includes a student service project. Throughout the week, students will bring in toys and games to be donated to the Treasure Chest at Avera Children’s Hospital in Sioux Falls.

“South Pacific’s” plot centers on an American nurse, Ens. Nellie Forbush (played by Malle Stephens) stationed at a U.S. Naval base on a South Pacific island during WWII who falls in love with an expatriate French plantation owner, Emile de Becque (played by Brian Albertson) but struggles to accept his mixed-race children.

While Stephens returns to the PAC stage with a plethora of lead role experience, this is only Albertson’s second time on stage.

“Originally I only auditioned for the part of a sailor but I got a call back to audition for the lead,” he says. “It’s got me a little nervous, but if he (Brick) thinks I can do it, I can do it.”

A second romance between a U.S. lieutenant, Joseph Cable (played by Matthew Skadsen) and a young Tonkinese woman, Liat (played by Jessica Sadler), explores his fears of the social consequences should he wed his Asian sweetheart.

The issue of racial prejudice is candidly explored throughout the musical, most controversially in the lieutenant’s song, “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught.”

Supporting characters, including a comic petty officer, Luther Billis (played by Alex Rogen) and the Tonkinese girl's mother, Bloody Mary (played by Ashlynn Boerhave), tie the stories together.

A number of veteran actors return to the Performing Arts Center stage for this show.
“We have some kids in this show that have been in everything since ‘Oliver’ 11 years ago,” Brick said.

Brick had the challenge of casting more than 80 students in this year’s show that features 10 elementary-aged kids.

“It’s always a challenge to create as much stage time as possible for everyone,” he said.

A live orchestra, under the direction of Terry Gullickson, also returns to the Performing Arts Center’s orchestra pit.

“They’re a top-notch crew,” Brick said. “We have a lot of seniors in there, kids who have played in the pit orchestra for four years.”

Brandon Valley social studies teacher Mark Griebel has lent a helping hand in set constructionthis year.

He’s the brainchild behind the construction of a half-scale version of an F-4 Wildcat fighter plane.

“We’ve decided he’s ‘Tim the Toolman’ – no doubt about it,” Brick said.

Griebel has also constructed a working shower for Nellie for the familiar “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair’ number.
Dates: April 4, 5, 6 – 7 p.m.; April 7 – 1 p.m.
Where: Brandon Valley Performing Arts Center
Tickets: $5
Box office: Open 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Brandon Valley High School. For phone orders, call 582-8039.

Brandon Valley seniors Malle Stephens and Brian Albertson rehearse a scene from Brandon Valley's spring production of "South Pacific." The play will be performed at 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and at 1 p.m. Sunday in the Performing Arts Center. Photo by Jill Meier

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