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Edmonton Opera.

Perhaps the most notable fact about Edmonton Opera's April production of South Pacific was that it didn't feel like an opera company had staged this 55-year-old Broadway classic. Under artistic director Brian Deedrick's shrewd and knowing hands, it unfolded with energy and conviction. With a background of palm trees and sky, designer Robert Shannon's small unit sets for the Captain's office or DeBecque's patio could be quickly moved on and off to keep up the pace.

Edmonton favorite Tracy Dahl played her first Nellie Forbush with lots of spunk, a soaring, heartfelt soprano and even a cartwheel. Theodore Baerg was superb as Emile DeBecque, bringing warm, honeyed tones to some of Rodgers' most powerful ballads. John Ulyatt, one of Edmonton's most versatile actors, sang Lt. Cable, and though he's not a real Broadway tenor, he was expressive and his portrayal was among the evening's standouts.

Other admired local actors included Jeff Haslam as a boisterous Luther Billis and John Wright as the sardonic Captain. Rebecca Hass sang Bloody Mary, and although she didn't have the earthy, mythic tones for "Bali Ha'i," she sang with intensity and her performance was fine.

Deanna Finnman's costumes were apt. with the nurses' Thanksgiving show hats a triumph of kitsch. Resident conductor Peter Dala seemed to know just what to bring to the score, and the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra was thoroughly at home with the music.

The themes of intolerance and racial prejudice and the longing for war's end still reverberate in our time, making South Pacific much more than a nostalgic valentine.
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Title Annotation:Edmonton
Author:Charles, John
Publication:Opera Canada
Date:Jun 22, 2004
Previous Article:Calgary Opera.
Next Article:Madama butterfly: Christiane Riel (Cio-Cio-San) and Mark Hervieux (Pinkerton) in the Edmonton Opera production.

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