In February and March the veteran English-speaking musical theater company, the Light Opera Group of the Negev (LOGON), will be presenting the musical South Pacific in nine performances around the country. One of the greatest Broadway musicals ever produced, the show’s famous score includes "Bali Ha'i", "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair", "Some Enchanted Evening", "Happy Talk", "Younger than Springtime", and "I'm in Love with a Wonderful Guy", all of which have become worldwide standards
The Rodgers & Hammerstein musical about American servicemen stationed in an alien culture in wartime debuted in 1949, only three years after World War II, and was an immediate critical and box office hit. The show has never been out of the public consciousness since its opening, but while South Pacific has had many successful revivals, tours and films since then, it took nearly 60 years for the show to return to Broadway. (The hugely successful two-year Lincoln Center revival is now on tour.)
For those new to South Pacific (or for anyone who hasn't seen it lately,) the show’s humor is anything but dated. The piece is genuinely funny, and its serious themes of love during wartime, cultural prejudice and overt racism still strike an all-too familiar chord.
“ I really think the show is as relevant today as when it was in 1949,” comments director Yaacov Amsellem, who directed LOGON’S very successful past productions of "The King and I," “Guys and Dolls,” and “My Fair Lady.” “I think the main message of this show is that one needs to be brave enough to rethink, reexamine our beliefs,” he adds.
Mike Berlin, who plays the marine Lt. Joe Cable in the tragic comedy, agrees that the themes in the musical are still very relevant today. “There is racial and ethnic prejudice, to which the song ‘You've got to be carefully taught’ relates (“You’ve got to be taught to be afraid / Of people whose eyes are oddly made, / And people whose skin is a different shade— / You’ve got to be carefully taught!”) And of course, there is the eternal question of war - man's willingness to kill one another,” he says.
Funny or serious, the real star of the show is the music. As a review of the revival production in the New Yorker suggests: “At the zenith of America’s postwar power—with abundance and intolerance at loggerheads within the nation—the ravishing score reminded America of its best self, and gave the fraught fifties a mantra of promise. “If you don’t have a dream, / How you gonna have a dream come true?” it asked.
LOGON, celebrating its 30th year, has a unique place, not only in the south, but throughout the country. LOGON produces a different Broadway musical every year, performing throughout the country. Apart from those in Beer Sheva, all performances in the other cities are used by various charity groups as fund raising events.
In this season’s production there are 40 performers on stage. LOGON’s veteran players are joined on stage by 12 teens and children from the Negev area. Every year LOGON welcomes new talent. This year it’s Yael and Yoel Levine, new immigrants from Mexico City who live in the Negev town of Yerucham. Yael plays the character of Bloody Mary with cyclonic energy and humor.
The couple and their two young children came to Israel originally in 2002, but soon moved to Vancouver, Canada, then, last year, back to Israel. Yael is a professional translator, Yoel, a language and music teacher, but has recently honed his carpentry skills building pergolas in the Negev. “We decided on Yerucham because we liked the quiet, religious community there,” says Yael. They discovered LOGON via the Internet. Their fellow-Yerucham resident Kara Aharon, LOGON’s assistant musical director, persuaded the couple to come along for auditions, and they were bitten by the showbiz bug.
LOGON will present South Pacific in venues all across Israel, from February 15 to March 10.
For reservations or ticket information, call (08) 641-4081, or go to www.negevlightopera.com.
The performances sponsored by ESRA are:
Modiin Heichal Hatarbut on 21 February – tickets from 050-825 1923
Kfar Saba Heichal Hatarbut on 3 March – tickets from 09-7482957