SO MUCH JOY: Some of the nursing cast at rehearsals for South Pacific are Raechelle Walters, Helena Esposito, Eleanor Hannan and (front) Olivia Rowe.
SO MUCH JOY: Some of the nursing cast at rehearsals for South Pacific are Raechelle Walters, Helena Esposito, Eleanor Hannan and (front) Olivia Rowe.

South Pacific memorable songs bought back to life on stage

IF YOU are like me, the four little words, Bali Hai is calling, have the whole soundtrack of South Pacific running through your head .... not to mention movie scenes.

Little wonder director Pollyanna Forshaw chose them when asked how she would promote the Gosford Musical Society's latest show, running from March 1-16 at Laycock Street Community Theatre.

Rodgers and Hammerstein's classic musical, which in April celebrates its 70th birthday, is one of her favourites from childhood, nostalgically reminding her of listening to the songs on her parents' record player.

It is the story of Nellie Forbush (Sancia West), an American army nurse who is "in love with a wonderful guy".

That "guy" is French planter Emile de Becque (Gerard Dunning), with whom she shares "some enchanted evening", and other names you may recall include Lt Joseph Cable (Tom Kelly), his young love Liat (Marlee Carter) and Bloody Mary (Tina Leaitau).

With both the older and younger relationships threatened by prejudice and war, Pollyanna said South Pacific's message remained relevant today, while the music and lyrics were as memorable as ever.

"They are songs that just live on," she said.

"These were young men full of life and vigour, and young women nurses who were adventurous ...."

Pollyanna said she had always keenly felt "the sacrifice of our young men at war".

At the audition, she played the video of an ex-serviceman friend, Brian Smith, 96, who she had been with recently when he returned with his daughter to where he had fought in Rabaul, Papua New Guinea.

She wanted to give prospective performers some understanding of war through the eyes of someone who was there, with Brian at 18, having lied that he was 21 in order to enlist.

She said seeing the rows and rows of young men's graves at Rabaul had been quite overwhelming.

However, she said while the show has a serious message, it also has "so much vibrancy and joy in it as well".

Pollyanna is delighted with her lead cast and the various ensembles of nurses, sailors and islanders.

However, she said the show was "the product of so many people's work", in front of and behind the scenes, or both, as in the case of set designer and actor Daryl Kirkness, who plays the comic relief, Luther Billis.

Having worked with Wyong Drama Group for 45 years, as well as Wyong and Gosford musical societies, and run her own drama academy XtrAct, for many years, Pollyanna said she believed there was a "niche for everyone in community theatre".

In the case of Gosford Musical Society, a group from the Men's Shed constructs sets, there is a Tuesday women's sewing group, people with disabilities help out in various roles, and the cast, numbering about 50 in this production, "work all day, practice, perform and give it their very best to produce something special".

South Pacific is the first of this year's major GMS productions, to be followed by Aida, Strictly Ballroom and Les Miserables.

Tickets for the show from March 1-16 are $46 adults, $44 concession and $42 members.

Go to gosfordmusicalsociety.com or phone the theatre on 02 4323 3233.


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