‘South Pacific’ opens at Canyon Crest Academy


There’s a tropical island in the middle of Carmel Valley as Canyon Crest Academy sets sail on “South Pacific” this weekend. A mature high school cast takes on the play set on an island in World War II that is brimming with sailors, nurses and enchanted evenings.

“South Pacific,” which opens tonight and runs through Nov. 15, will be the largest musical in Canyon Crest’s short history, featuring a cast of 42 talented students. The cast almost doubles last year’s 25-member “Grease” cast.

“South Pacific” follows Nellie Forbush (junior Emma Stratton), a Navy nurse from Arkansas who is a self-described “Cockeyed Optimist.” The young Forbush finds herself falling for Emile (senior Spencer Meredith), an older, French-born plantation owner with a mysterious past.

Along for the ride with Nellie is an island full of women-deprived sailors, the most enterprising of which is Luther Billis, played by junior Patrick Kelley. Kelley oozes a 1940s-brand of sleaze that still comes off a bit charming.

The bored sailors are all big fans of local grass-skirt seller Bloody Mary (Erin Wuthrich), who tells them stories about all the beautiful women that are just out of reach on Bal’i Hai. Wuthrich’s beautiful voice on “Bal’i Hai” is a first act highlight.

Other standouts include Stratton in the cute and fun number “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair” and in a sweet duet with Meredith on the show’s most well known song, “Some Enchanted Evening.”

Senior Chris Braden also steals scenes with his Commander Brackett character, somehow channeling a bit of George W. Bush.

At the helm for her second musical at Canyon Crest is director Jannine Marquie, a drama teacher at the school and a professional actress. In addition to her teaching and directing duties, she is also in rehearsals for “It’s a Wonderful Life,” a holiday show being put on by Cygnet Theatre. Marquie selected “South Pacific” as its deep themes are relevant to today’s world.

“The idea of prejudice and patriotism, these are all very pertinent topics right at this moment,” Marquie said.

Marquie said a specifically challenging part of the play for the actors was the scene featuring the song, “You Have to Be Carefully Taught,” a raw and angst-laden piece in which the characters are forced to face their own prejudices.

David Weiner, a shop foreman at the La Jolla Playhouse designed the show’s impressive set. Students in the school’s tech theater class, as well as volunteers, built it up from his drawings.

With paint splatters on their oversized T-shirts, students were hard at work last week making the final touches on jungle scenes and fantastic tribal murals.

Every inch of the set is designed, from vines and tropical flowers that dangle from the ceiling to netting draped over the edges of the stage, topped with lanterns and boxes of ammunition.

One will be hard pressed to sit in the theater and not soak up the fun, tropical atmosphere. It’s just pretty darn…enchanting.

‘South Pacific’

- Nov. 7-15

- Canyon Crest Academy

- 5951 Village Center Loop Road

- Tickets: $5-$15

- (858) 350-0253