BCHS choral department presenting ‘South Pacific’

BROWNSTOWN — Set against the dramatic background of an idyllic South Pacific island during World War II, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “South Pacific” intertwines the themes of romance, duty and prejudice.

That creates a story that is all at once hilarious, heartbreaking and thought-provoking.

Based on the anecdotes of a real-life U.S. Navy commander who was stationed on an island, the musical follows two intercultural love stories. Nellie, a spunky nurse from Arkansas, falls in love with Emile, a French plantation owner on the island who has two children from his late Polynesian wife. At the same time, U.S. lieutenant Cable falls for a beautiful island native named Liat.

Both Americans find themselves struggling to reconcile their own cultural prejudices with their amorous feelings, all the while under the dark cloud of a war that is coming ever closer to their island paradise.

The show is being presented by the Brownstown Central High School choral department at 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday and 5 p.m. Saturday in the auditorium at the school, 500 N. Elm St., Brownstown.

“When I was in elementary school, Mrs. (Jan) Willey pulled me up to do one of the kid parts, so it has always been really special to me,” Choral Director Stephanie Brock said of this year’s musical choice. “It has always held a special place in my heart to do it again, and the kids are having fun with it because it’s an older one and some of them hadn’t heard of it. Now, they’ve grabbed hold of it and are having a good time.”

She said the students have really embraced their characters.

“We’ve got a lot of talent,” she said. “I feel like I say that every year, but we are so blessed in this area with kids who have talent and who want to be a part of the music department, so I’m always encouraged and excited every year when I see kids who maybe haven’t shined and all of a sudden, they come out of their shell and they are amazing.”

Playing the lead roles are seniors Grant Elliott (Emile de Becque) and Kaitlyn McCormick (Nellie Forbush).

Elliott said Emile is an old French man who is very elegant and proper but has a bit of a troubled history.

“I like it because he’s an old man and people often call me an old soul, so I’ve been able to embody that,” Elliott said.

“I also like his character because in this musical, it explores a lot of different themes and topics, like racism, and he falls in love this with this girl, and when she finds out that he has Polynesian children and he once was married to a Polynesian woman, a woman from Arkansas in the 1940s has to overcome her prejudice,” he said. “I like how he values his children despite them being of that Polynesian background.”

McCormick said she relates to her character being a country girl and outgoing.

“I like how fun, outgoing she is,” she said. “I like being like that. I’m not a quiet person myself, so it’s really fun to be out there.”

She likes the message of Nellie falling in love with Emile but getting scared when she learns about his family.

“Sometimes, you go into things not knowing what you’re going to get out of it, and it’s a little scary,” McCormick said. “I want everyone to enjoy watching and hopefully get a good message out of it.”

Senior Brandon Hamm said he finds similarities between himself and his character, Luther Billis.

“He’s the same as me. He keeps low until he has to speak up, and then it’s something funny,” Hamm said. “This one in particular, I think we have a lot of roles set for people here. It’s a show that a lot of people match, like Grant as de Becque, perfect choice, Kait was made to be Nellie, I fit Billis. We all fit into the roles.”

Junior Emily Barnes also said she was made to play her character, Bloody Mary.

“I’ve always really liked Bloody Mary because she was funny and out there. That’s how I am,” she said. “I had talked to my mom and I said, ‘Hey, I want to do this, but I have insane stage fright,’ so she helped me and we watched the movie, and she goes, ‘I think you should really do this.’ I went to the audition and I made Mrs. Brock and Mrs. (Alisha) Griffin laugh so hard. She’s out there and wild and she’ll say something you don’t expect.”

Senior Kaitlynn Robinson plays the role of the lead nurse. She and Barnes also choreographed the dancing.

“I like the dialogue between the characters. It’s so funny,” Robinson said. “When you have good chemistry with everyone, it works so much better, and this year, (Barnes) and other characters are hilarious.”

With COVID-19 restrictions impacting the musical in recent years, Brock said it’s nice to see those eased this year so the students can shine onstage.

“I’m always just so proud of them and to see that they are proud of themselves, that they see that the hard work pays off and the dedication and being committed to something and following through because I think too often, it’s easy to quit,” she said. “That’s a life lesson. You can’t always quit when you start something.”

That’s true of Brock, too, as she went through the recovery process after undergoing surgery to remove a mass on her brain.

“Last year was a rough year for me, so I feel very grateful and blessed to be here, to watch these kids, and it’s very rewarding in a personal way. It’s pretty incredible,” she said.

Her doctors allowed her to attend some rehearsals for last year’s musical, and she came back full time at the beginning of this school year.

“These kids are the best medicine for me ever,” she said. “They really are.”

If you go 

What: Brownstown Central High School choral department’s production of “South Pacific”

When: 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday and 5 p.m. Saturday

Where: Auditorium at the school, 500 N. Elm St., Brownstown

Tickets: $10 (kindergarten and older or anyone occupying a seat must have a ticket); purchase at The Peoples Bank or Family Drug in Brownstown; reserve tickets by calling 812-358-3453

Directors: Stephanie Brock and Alisha Griffin

Cast: Grant Elliott, Kaitlyn McCormick, Colton Hallow, Emily Barnes, Brandon Hamm, Jenna Bracamonte, Landon Whitson, Gabe Edwards, Logan Geswein, Lacey Sweany, Addisyn Osborne, Dustyn Kocsis, Silas Norman, Kaitlynn Robinson, Lydia Chandler, Lillian Abdulbari, Roz Abell, Keetan Burcham-Jones and Reece Osborne

Chorus: Kemora Chastain, Emma DeShong, Allison Dillard, Madeline Gibson, Emma Hughbanks, Rachel Louden, Chelsea Luedeman, Avory Motsinger, Lizzie Pollert, Jenna Ratliff, Allie Schocke, Shayla Sweany and Alexa Wheeles

Stage crew: Brynn Burton, Claire Elliott, Alexis Harmon, Jenna Lowery and Gracie Scott

Spotlights: Sloan Stuckwisch and Ethan Wheeles