Songs of the 'South' 

Photo: Wendy Mutz

Oklahoma City Repertory Theatre (CityRep) and Oklahoma City University’s Bass School of Music are joining forces for the first time on an ambitious production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s beloved Pulitzer Prize-winning musical South Pacific for one weekend only.

Helmed by accomplished New York-based director Len Pfluger, the show features a cast of 40 and a full 38-member orchestra and co-stars Christopher Carl as Emile de Becque, a role he played in the show’s recent Broadway revival, and OCU alumna Tiffan Borelli as Nellie Forbush.

Based on James Michener’s novel, Tales of the South Pacific (also a Pulitzer winner), the story is set on a tropical island during World War II and explores issues of racial prejudice through the romantic struggles of two couples: U.S. Navy nurse Nellie Forbush and expatriate French plantation owner Emile de Becque and US Airman Joe Cable and Liat, a young islander.

While this is the first time Len Pfluger has directed a co-production between a professional theater company and a university, he immediately saw the benefits of the partnership.

“The students have great opportunity to work with outside professional actors, and CityRep and the professional actors are given the opportunity to work on a scale that regional theaters are rarely given,” Pfluger said.

Like the character Nellie, Borelli wanted to see how other countries and cultures led their lives. Despite playing Emile many times before, Christopher Carl said the script and score — both rich in meaning — continue to inspire him.

“Rodgers and Hammerstein, along with book writer Josh Logan, have created such a masterpiece for the stage,” Carl said.

The themes of prejudice and acceptance in South Pacific still resonate strongly with Pfluger, who grew up in the 1960s, when racism was more prevalent.

“We have come a long way, but we still have so far to go,” he said. “South Pacific is a timely reminder that we need to see people as human beings and not a skin color.”

In honor of Borelli’s return to the OCU stage, all OCU alumni can purchase two-for-one tickets on Thursday. Tickets for an opening night dinner before Friday’s performance can be purchased through the OCU ticketing website.

“Every time this musical is recreated, it challenges the audience and society to look inward and see how far we have come in terms of our own prejudices,” Borelli said, “and how far we have left to go.”

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Eric Webb

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