* I received a pair of tickets to South Pacific: In Concert at the Lone Tree Arts Center free of charge in exchange for a review. All opinions, nostalgic feelings, and extreme gushy love for the female star of the cast are 100% my own. (You will see what I mean in a moment.)
About a month ago I was contacted by the Lone Tree Arts Center here in Colorado and asked if I would like to review their children’s theater production of Bunnicula. As you may or may not know, I did so. However, when they asked I immediately responded and said, “I would love to…..but what I really want to review is South Pacific: In Concert.” Much to my delight, I got the opportunity to review both.
Now, let’s make one thing clear: I am not a theater critic. Never have been, never will be. That is not what I am pretending to be here today. Today I am just here to tell you my honest thoughts on a production of a Rodgers & Hammerstein classic, as told through the eyes of someone who has been singing and performing all of her life. I’m no pro, but I adore being on stage, and especially singing. I even started college as a music major, but I quickly realized that music theory classes were the devil and were making me dislike singing, so I grabbed enough credits to get a music minor instead and then high tailed it out of there and into the elementary education department. Much better fit. I like music to be my escape, not my work or my chore.
Well, friends, I have news for you: listening to the female lead of this show sing is truly an escape. She is the reason that I wanted to see the show, after all. The woman playing Nellie Forbush is one of my dearest friends in the world, Lauren Shealy. I know, I know, I am completely biased, but if you ever get to hear her sing you will understand that my love for Lauren is not coloring my view of her voice in the slightest. She is, quite simply, astonishing.
The first time that I heard Lauren sing was in the seventh grade. She was a grade above me, and I stared in wonder as eight grade Lauren belted out Bonnie Rait’s “Let’s Give Em Something to Talk About” on the stage of the Feb Follies, our middle school talent show. After the show it was all the parents were discussing with one another.
Throughout high school she was the lead in the musical every year without fail, and deservedly so. I am thrilled to have been in her backup chorus. I once laughingly told the director of our plays that I worked so hard as a chorus girl that I was convinced that everyone was watching me….until I realized that Lauren Shealy was standing directly in front of me belting out a ballad. Heehee. We both laughed. It couldn’t be denied: she owned the stage. And she still does!
One of those shows was South Pacific. Lauren was Nellie even back then, and I was an island girl. We weren’t buddies at that time because I was too starstruck by her. I recall her standing in her beautiful party dress side stage and telling me that I looked so beautiful as I walked off stage. Man oh man, I thought that I was IT! The STAR had noticed ME on stage! I was pretty much the bomb. Hahaha. Ah, the joys of being young and idiotic. Would you like to see some pictures from our South Pacific days? I figured you would, seeing as how no one reads this blog for theater reviews, 😉 so I dug some up from my mom’s photo albums. I was a whopping 15 and Lauren was 16. She actually still looks remarkably the same, only even more beautiful and mature now. I wish I could say the same for myself….man oh MAN what I wouldn’t give to have that metabolism back!
Cast Photo after the show. I was a total fangirl. 🙂
We island girls thought we were oh-so-sexy. You know, with our waify bodies and braces…. 😉
(I’m in the blue leotard in the center.)
Delightful Lauren was the star of the show. I love that lively lady!
Ahhhh….memory lane. Thanks for indulging me. 🙂
After high school Lauren went on to get a degree in musical theater from New York University’s highly competitive Tisch School of the Arts and then worked in New York, regional theaters, and touring companies before making the decision to move back to Colorado to be near her family. (Yay for me!! And YAY for the Denver theater scene!!!!) One of her biggest opportunities: playing Nellie Forbush in the national touring company of South Pacific. This is her role, people. It fits her to a tee!
I have seen her in many shows since she returned to Denver, often as the leading lady, but it was so fun to see her return to this role in which I originally became her fangirl through and through. Although I now count her as one of my very dearest friends, I am still just as in awe of her talent as I was back then. Over the years her voice and her mastery of her craft just continue to get better and better and better. I have heard her sing more times than I can count and never have I heard her crack or make a mistake. And the best thing about her? She is so humble and so warm and so generous with her talent and her love. I truly love her, both as a performer and as a human being. She is such a light in my life. If you ever get the opportunity to see her in this or any other show you will be able to feel her warmth from the stage, of that I am sure.
Now, I bet you were thinking that this was supposed to be a review of the entire production. Well, when you get me talking about my girl Lauren everything else pales in comparison, but I do have a few glowing words for some of the other members of the cast.
I felt that Lauren really stole the show, even my bias aside, but she was surrounded by talented and seasoned theater vets. The other performer that really stole every scene he was in was Paul Dwyer as Billis. He was hil-ar-ious! I recognize him from a dinner theater that my parents took me to when I was growing up, and he is just as amusing now as he was then, if not more so! He was so full of energy and not a bit self conscious on stage. It was so fun to watch him and the other sailors interact. Their rendition of “Nothing Like a Dame” was particularly strong. However, my favorite number from Paul Dwyer as Billis was “Honey Bun” with Lauren. It was my favorite of her South Pacific numbers back in high school, and that held true now as well. Lauren’s Broadway belt combined with Paul’s comedic flair was just perfect. Loved it.
Overall, the show made for a very enjoyable evening. South Pacific is a show full of the most beautiful music, and it was a perfect pre-Valentine’s Day date for my hubby and I. He is a theater lover as well. In fact, we met when we were serving as performing missionaries for our church. I fell in love with his voice before I fell in love with him! My husband’s favorite number, aside from Lauren’s numbers, was “This Nearly Was Mine,” sung by Thaddeus Valdez as Emile de Becque. We were both also very impressed with “Younger Than Springtime,” performed by Randy St. Pierre as Lt. Cable.
If you are in the Denver, Colorado area and want a fun date night this Valentine’s Day weekend then you should consider checking out this show! It runs this week only, so hurry and check out the website HERE. I didn’t realize there was such a fun local theater so close to our home! I can’t wait to find out what is coming next!