Sayreville high school debuts ‘South Pacific’

Staff Writer

Sayreville high school
debuts ‘South Pacific’
Staff Writer

FARRAH MAFFAI staff Cori Anne Jensen, playing “Nellie Forbush,” and Matt Lewandowski, as “Emile DeBeque,” rehearse a scene from “South Pacific” last week.FARRAH MAFFAI staff Cori Anne Jensen, playing “Nellie Forbush,” and Matt Lewandowski, as “Emile DeBeque,” rehearse a scene from “South Pacific” last week.

SAYREVILLE — A search for youthful talent in the borough will take you no further than the auditorium of Sayreville War Memorial High School this weekend.

Judging by the enthusiasm building among the 53-member cast of "South Pacific" as opening night nears, the musical is likely to captivate with the island setting that gives "South Pacific" its beautiful costumes and scenery.

Set on a Pacific island during WWII, "South Pacific" looks lightheartedly at wartime romance, highlighting the relationships shared by a Navy nurse and a French plantation owner, as well as by an American officer and a native girl.

"There are dramatic scenes, but they’re followed by more comedic moments," said Keith Carne, who provides one of the musical’s most memorable moments when he appears wearing a coconut bra as the character Luther Billis.

"As corny as Kansas in August," added Cori Anne Jensen, mimicking one of her lines in the show.

Seniors starring in the musical include Patsy Palma (Lt. Joseph Cable), Matt Lewandowski (Emile de Becque), Jensen (Nellie Forbush), Amanda Figueroa (Bloody Mary), Sherin Parikh (Capt. George Brackett) and Carne (Luther Billis).

The seniors said that while "South Pacific" centers largely on their performances, the supporting cast is brimming with talent.

"We are only as good as our supporting cast, and they are excellent," Lewandowski said.

Although "South Pacific" has been staged countless times since its 1958 creation, cast members base their performances on their own interpretations of the script.

"I have to become this creepy oriental lady," said Figueroa, speaking of her portrayal of Bloody Mary, an inhabitant of the mysterious Bali Ha’i island. Figueroa said the cast has worked hard on the set and costumes to give an authentic island feeling.

"These students are the creme de la creme," said director Michael Picuro, speaking of members of the cast. James Kraft is musical director of "South Pacific" and Andrew Clark oversees the technical crew.

The show has appeal for all audiences, according to cast members, and features a famous Rodgers and Hammerstein musical score.

For a musical that some cast members claim was an unexpected choice, the excitement and attachment to the play seem to have grown in leaps and bounds.

"We thought we were going to do ‘West Side Story’ or ‘Grease,’ " said Jensen, describing the cast’s surprise when "South Pacific" was announced as the choice.

"South Pacific" gives the cast a chance to incorporate comedy and drama, though Palma favors the musical elements.

Most of the leading performers have acted in the musicals at Sayreville War Memorial High School for several years, and their last performance will be an important milestone.

"I had no idea I would do this," said Palma, reflecting on his decision to become involved in the high school musical as a freshman.

Carne said he will follow his performance in the musical by preparing for a spring showcase of one-act plays that will involve many of the cast members.

"It’s bittersweet, but I’m also excited for performances in the future," said Parikh, who will study acting at New York University in the fall.

Many of the talented seniors plan to continue acting and will do so at several renowned colleges and universities after graduation, said Picuro, clearly proud of the students’ exceptional talents.

"The cast is dynamic and wonderful," said Tara Cook, the choreographer for "South Pacific," who also happens to be a former Sayreville War Memorial High School student.

"Our cast is always putting its heart and soul into everything," Lewandowski said.

The cast will hold a free performance for senior citizens today at 7 p.m. at Sayreville War Memorial High School. The musical debuts Friday at 7 p.m., with another show at the same time on Saturday.