The New Ulm Actors Community Theatre presents
NEW ULM – The New Ulm Actors Community Theatre will have their summer musical, the award winning Broadway musical, “South Pacific” by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II.
Performances are planned at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 25, Friday, July 26, Saturday, July 27, and at 2 p.m. Sunday, June 28. All four shows will be in the air-conditioned 900-seat District Administrative Center (DAC, former Middle School) auditorium.
The play will be directed by theatre veteran Paul Warshauer with Musical Direction from Miles Wurster, Director of Instructional Music at Martin Luther College. Vocal Direction will be by Kathryn Wurster and the Producer of the show is NUACT Chair, Judy Sellner. Reed Glawe is in charge of set construction and Keara Roberts is Associate Producer. Vicki Kuehn is the Stage Manager and Danica Scharlemann is the Assistant Director.
Warshauer has been a part of more than 500 plays in his career and this is the second time he’s directed the “South Pacific” musical. It’s the 10th production he’s directed here in New Ulm.
The cast and crew of South Pacific is a mixture of many play veterans, but also some new to the local scene. Warshauer said the mix is good overall for him and everyone else involved.
“It’s good to have a balance between new blood and veteran performers, especially with community theatre,” he said. “The new guys and girls bring a lot of energy that the veterans may or may not have.”
He’s directed “South Pacific” before [in 1991] and he figured it was a logical choice with this crew.
“As executive director, I have to find a play or musical that I know that we have the talent to present,” Warshauer said. “Too many community theaters pick a show, like they want to do Beauty and the Beast. If they don’t have a guy that can sing and act, then they might as well not do the play. In this case, I knew we had at least two or three Emiles, we had two or three Nellies. Those are the leading characters.”
Warshauer said that the age range of actors goes from age 6-70, with actors coming from as far north as Fairfax to as far south as Madelia.
The plot centers on an American nurse, (Nellie Forbush played by Leah Boeder) stationed on a South Pacific island during World War II who falls in love with a middle-aged expatriate French plantation owner (Emile DeBecque played by Kent Menzel) but struggles to accept his mixed-race children, (played by Dawson Sellner & Katia Ostermann). A secondary romance, between a U.S. lieutenant (Joe Cable played by Chris Seifert) and a young Tonkinese woman, (Liat played by Cloe Cedillo) explores his fears of the social consequences should he marry his Asian sweetheart. The issue of racial prejudice is candidly explored throughout the musical, most controversially in the lieutenant’s song, “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught.”
“The story line is universal,” Warshauer said. “It’s won all kinds of awards for very good reason. It’s one of the most solid stories of all musicals, it’s not silly, it’s pretty serious.”
Supporting characters, including a comic petty officer (Billis played by Paul Henning) and the Tonkinese girl’s mother, (Bloody Mary played by Jean Eelma) help to tie the stories together.
A full orchestra, exotic costumes, and elaborate sets will contribute to make this production one of the largest community theatre musicals in New Ulm’s history.
For most community theatre plays and musicals, finding costumes can be somewhat of a challenge. But Warshauer didn’t have any problems at all.
“It was very easy, because we got two women from Mankato [Molly Smith and Lolly Foy] who do this for a living, and they love the show so they’re giving a lot of their time for free,” Warshauer said.
Photos by Steve Muscatello