Almanac

Schools - October 19, 2011

Woodside Community Theatre stages 'South Pacific'

by Kate Daly

If "South Pacific" can enjoy a successful revival on Broadway, then why not try in Woodside, too?

Woodside Community Theatre first staged the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical 20 years ago, and is mounting it again at the end of this month and beginning of November.

A handful of the same people are linked to both shows. Richard Gordon of Woodside, for example, was music director in 1991 and is again this year. This go-around he's conducting a 28-piece "full orchestra," and says the score will sound "very different because we now know how to do it better this time, ... and we're being very sparing in what we cut."

Twenty years later, Woodsider Joan Rubin is back acting as production manager, this time with the extra bonus of watching her grandson, Alex Rubin, cast as a sailor.

Only one cast member is making an encore performance. Liz Matchett played a nurse in the 1991 production back when she was teaching Spanish at Woodside Elementary School. Now she finds herself rehearsing in the school's Sellman Auditorium again, relearning the nurse's part.

She met her husband, Richard Vaughan, doing a WCT show. He's the bandleader at Hillview Middle School in Menlo Park, and is playing the cello for this show.

The children of co-producers Mark Bowles and Mindy Brummet appeared in the 1991 production. Co-producer Donna Losey's children have performed in past WCT shows, as well, but this time she is going to be on stage as a nun, alternating with Karen Peterson, who served as a longtime teacher at Woodside Elementary, where she taught the Bowles and Losey children.

Two other former Woodside Elementary parents are in the cast, Darrell and Darlene Batchelder. He is a sailor and she is playing Bloody Mary, having starred as the "Drowsy Chaperone" in last year's show of the same name.

Ms. Batchelder is particularly excited about her part. After seeing "South Pacific" at the Circle Star Theatre in San Carlos in the 1960s, she says, "I loved it. It was my father's favorite show. We used to walk around the house singing all the songs."

The musical debuted in New York in 1949, going on to win many awards and hearts with memorable songs such as "Some Enchanted Evening," "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair," and "Bali Ha'i."

The plot centers on an island during World War II where American Ensign Nellie Forbush, played by Beth Anne Wells, falls for ex-patriot French plantation owner, Emile de Becque, portrayed by Russ Bohard.

Meanwhile, U.S. Marine Lieutenant Joe Cable, played by Stewart Kramer, gets involved with Bloody Mary's Tonkinese daughter, Liat. Woodside High junior Ale Gilbert fills that role. Racial tensions arise during both love stories.

The show is being staged at Woodside High School Performing Arts Center, 199 Churchill Ave., on Oct. 28 and 29 at 7:30 p.m.; Oct. 30 at 2 p.m.; Nov. 4 and 5 at 7:30 p.m.; and Nov. 6 at 2 p.m.

Visit woodsidetheatre.com or call (800) 838-3066 for tickets. They cost $25 for adults, $22 for seniors 65 and older, and $15 for students 18 and under.

Bill Starr who directed WCT's "Fiddler on the Roof" two years ago, is stage director. The Menlo-Atherton High School grad and Broadway veteran is house manager for Stanford Lively Arts.

Kristen Pfeifer is choral director. Don and Catherine Coluzzi of Portola Valley are the lighting designers. Woodside brothers Akio and Steve Patrick are designing and building the set, including a 40-foot-wide beach. Their wives, Karen and Tina, are working on costumes and scene painting, respectively.

The cast of 35 includes performers from all over the Peninsula, including Emily Ross of Atherton playing Ngana, and her mother, Alison, appearing as a nurse. Austin Merrill is a sailor and Will Palomares is a pilot. They're both from Woodside.

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