First Look: Broadway at its finest comes to Sarasota with the timeless musical masterpiece, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific at Asolo Repertory Theatre

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By: Sherry Janes
A fresh and unique adaptation of this beloved musical was made possible through permission from the Rodgers and Hammerstein estate.  This new “chamber” version will be presented in a truthful way, but also introducing touches to reflect the intimacy of the elegant Asolo Repertory Theatre.
The brightest stars from Broadway and London’s West End lead this incredibly talented cast.  Loretta Ables Sayre originated the role of “Bloody Mary” in the Lincoln Center revival of South Pacific and received a Tony nomination for her performance.  Loretta will grace the stage of the Asolo, once again portraying “Bloody Mary,” and deliver her spine-tingling rendition of the hauntingly beautiful Bali Ha’i.
Kelly Felthous, with her ingénue looks and voice was perfectly cast for the role of “Nellie Forbush,” the cockeyed nurse.  She comes to the Asolo straight from her leading role in the national tour of Wicked.
The production will come to life with a magnificent revolving set which provides the epic landscape of the South Pacific.  All new orchestrations were created especially for Asolo Rep by Brad Haak, the music director of the spring 2015 Broadway premiere of An American in Paris.
The extraordinary cast and crew of this grand production of the classic South Pacific go far beyond a show just being “put together.”  They have become a family of sorts with each member totally invested in telling the story, but in a new and amazing way.
South Pacific will be the talk of the season – this is an absolute must see!




Press Release

October 13, 2014
Rodgers and Hammerstein’s SOUTH PACIFIC
Opens Asolo Rep’s 2014-15 Season 

(SARASOTA, October 13, 2014) —  Asolo Repertory Theatre launches its 2014-15 season with SOUTH PACIFIC, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s glorious classic that poetically captures the sweet intricacies of wartime romance. The original 1949 Broadway production, based on the Pulitzer Prize winning novel, “Tales of the South Pacific,” by James A. Michener, garnered 10 Tony Awards®, including a still unprecedented sweep of all four acting categories. The acclaimed 2008 Lincoln Center Theater production received seven Tony Awards, the most of any musical revival. Directed by Rob Ruggiero (Asolo Rep’s Show Boat 2013), SOUTH PACIFIC opens Friday, November 14, 2014 at 8pm, with previews Tuesday, November 11 at 7:30pm and Wednesday, November 12 and Thursday, November 13, 2014 at 8pm. The 1950 Pulitzer Prize for Drama winner will run through the holiday season and close Sunday, December 28, 2014.

Come away to a lush, remote island in the South Pacific during World War II where U.S. Navy officers, Seabees and nurses discover and embrace unfamiliar people and cultures in a place so very far from home. Cockeyed optimist Nellie Forbush, a nurse from Little Rock, Arkansas, falls deeply in love with Frenchman Emile De Becque, a widowed plantation owner who has lived on the island for many years. But their enchanted love story is threatened by Emile’s mixed-race children and Nellie’s racist roots that she so deeply wants to outgrow. Ivy League hero Lt. Joseph Cable must also face his own moral compass when he becomes enraptured with Liat, a beautifully frail island girl.

“The work of Rodgers and Hammerstein is timeless,” said director Rob Ruggiero. “SOUTH PACIFIC is remarkable in its expression of a very strong and, in its time, very progressive message on racism. The musical’s unforgettable characters and relationships, great humor and extraordinary music have made SOUTH PACIFIC an engaging and moving classic since 1949. I’m thrilled to direct this brand new, richly intimate production.”

The brightest stars from Broadway and London’s West End lead this fresh, talented cast. Loretta Ables-Sayre (Bloody Mary) originated the role of Bloody Mary in the Lincoln Center revival of SOUTH PACIFIC and received a Tony nomination for her performance. Ben Davis (Emile De Becque) appeared as Gaylord Ravenal in Asolo Rep’s 2013 hit production of Show Boat and recently appeared on Broadway in Violet alongside Sutton Foster. Kelly Felthous (Nellie Forbush) performed the role of Glinda in the national tour of Wicked. Anthony Festa (Lt. Joseph Cable) recently starred as Tony in West Side Story on the West End.

The production’s exotic island will come to life with a magnificent revolving set designed by Michael Schweikardt.

“The turntable provides the show with a sweeping grandeur that reflects the epic landscape of the South Pacific, and it allows the show to flow in a seamless and cinematic way that perhaps wasn’t technically possible in the time in which the show was written,” said Michael Schweikardt. “Different facets of the set provide different locations, but seeing it revolve from place to place provides a continuity that shows us how interconnected we all are – no one is an island.”

SOUTH PACIFIC is studded with the most unforgettable songs of all time, including “Some Enchanted Evening,” “There is Nothin’ Like a Dame,” “Bali Ha’i” and “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Out-a My Hair.” The glorious score will be brought to life by a richly intimate eight-piece orchestra, led by music director William Waldrup. This grand production will feature all-new orchestrations created especially for Asolo Rep by Brad Haak, who is the music director of the highly anticipated spring 2015 Broadway premiere of An American in Paris.

Asolo Rep is proud to host military personnel, veterans and their families at the first preview performance of SOUTH PACIFIC. All current military and veterans receive one free ticket and a second ticket for a guest at just $10. Two additional family members can receive half-price tickets. As a longstanding Blue Star Theatre, Asolo Rep will offer a discount of 20 percent off up to four tickets for veterans and current military personnel throughout the run of SOUTH PACIFIC and for all of the theatre’s productions.

SOUTH PACIFIC kicks off the third season of Asolo Rep’s American Character Project, a close examination of this country’s political, social and historical anatomy. This Rodgers and Hammerstein classic, which boldly premiered in 1949 just four years after the conclusion of WWII, explores the increasingly relevant themes of racism and the cruelties of war. The musical aptly follows last season’s Show Boat, which examined similar social themes at an earlier point in U.S. history, and the 2012 production of 1776, in which America’s founding fathers vehemently debated the equality and rights of its prospective citizens.

SOUTH PACIFIC‘s heroine, Nellie, is a true emblem of America’s involvement in World War II and the remarkable social change that was just around the corner for our country,” said Michael Donald Edwards, producing artistic director of Asolo Rep. “We are thrilled to rediscover and present this extraordinary American musical theatre masterpiece that not only examines highly charged social issues but also features some of the most exquisite music ever written.”


(in order of appearance)


Patrick Enright & Zachary Jones
Sophia Cavalluzzi & Milaan T. Smith
Greg Williams*
Kelly Felthous*
Ben Davis*
Loretta Ables-Sayre*
Matthew Amira*
Ryan Cavanaugh*+
Steven Grant Douglas
Benjamin Howes*
Jeffrey Todd Parrott
Matt Faucher*
Anthony Festa*
Jim Sorensen*
Peter Reardon*
Meggie Cansler*
Laura Gepford
Willow Schneider
Autumn Ogawa*
Nellie Forbush
Emile De Becque
Bloody Mary
Luther Billis
Lt. Joseph Cable
Cmdr. William Harbison
Capt. George Brackett
Dinah Murphy/Ensemble

* = Members of Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.
+ = Dance Captain


Orchestrations & Arrangements
Music Direction
Set Design
Costume Design
Lighting Design
Sound Design
Rob Ruggiero
Brad Haak
JoAnn Hunter
William Waldrop
Michael Schweikardt
Leon Dobkowski
John Lasiter
Michael Miceli


Teri Booth
Stephanie Daige
Matt Dendy
Carlann Evans
Diane Lezman
Theresa MacDonnell
Tom Suta
Bill Swartzbaugh
Woodwinds 1
Woodwinds 2
Violin Alternate
French Horn

(In Alphabetical Order)
LORETTA ABLES-SAYRE* GUEST ARTIST, FIRST SEASON (Bloody Mary) NYC and Broadway debut as Bloody Mary in Lincoln Center Theater’s revival of SOUTH PACIFIC (Tony Award nomination and Theatre World Award) and London debut at Barbican Theatre, and U.K. tour. Theater: Bloody Mary in SOUTH PACIFIC (The MUNY) (Paper Mill Playhouse), Wrestling Ernest Hemingway (Hawaii Theatre), You Somebody (Diamond Head Theater), Dreamgirls (Hawaii Theatre), Song for the Navigator (Honolulu Theater for Youth – U.S. tour including Kennedy Center and Australia.) Concerts: opening for the Beach Boys, Kenny Loggins, James Brown, Four Tops. TV: Hawaii Five-0Beyond the Break, North ShoreHawaiiBaywatch HawaiiThe Byrds of Paradise. Movies: Sex and the City 2, dress.

BEN DAVIS* GUEST ARTIST, SECOND SEASON (Emile De Becque) Starred in London this summer as Fred Graham in Kiss Me, Kate as part of the BBC Proms at Royal Albert Hall. Billy, Anna Nicole the Opera (BAM, Lincoln Center); Brom Broeck, Knickerbocker Holiday. Broadway: The Preacher, Violet; Mr. Lindquist, u/s Carl-Magnus, Fredrik, A Little Night Music; Javert & Enjolras, Les Miserables; Trevor Graydon, Thoroughly Modern Millie; Marcello, Baz Luhrmann’s La Boheme (2003 Tony Honor). Tour: Galahad, Spamalot. Regional: Emile de Becque, South Pacific (The MUNY); Capt. Von Trapp, The Sound of Music (Paper Mill Playhouse) and Ravenal, Show Boat (Goodspeed & Asolo Rep). Film/TV:  Mozart’s The Magic Flute directed by Sir Kenneth Branagh, 30 Rock, and Numb3rs. Visit

KELLY FELTHOUS* GUEST ARTIST, FIRST SEASON (Nellie Forbush) most recently performed both the roles of Glinda and Nessarose in the national tour of Wicked. Kelly also originated the role of Gloria in Flashdance and Eva in Bring it On. Other favorite credits include Grease (Marty), Seussical (Mayzie),  Legally Blonde (Elle), A Chorus Line (Val), Boeing-Boeing (Gloria), Singin’ in the Rain (Kathy), Gypsy (June), Urinetown (Little Sally). Alumna of NYU/CAP21.

ANTHONY FESTA* FIRST SEASON (Lt. Joseph Cable) starred as Tony in West Side Story on London’s West End as well as the UK and International tour of the production. Other credits include the recent revival of Bare in NYC, How Deep is the Ocean at NYMF, Billy Elliot, Hairspray and The Full Monty. Mr. Festa was also recently seen in the Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall presentation of Andrew Lippa’s I Am Harvey Milk. 

ROB RUGGIERO GUEST DIRECTOR, THIRD SEASON (Director) directed Ella at Asolo Rep in 2007 and last season’s Show Boat. On Broadway, Rob directed Looped (starring Valerie Harper), and High (starring Kathleen Turner); both productions toured nationally. Off-Broadway he conceived and directed the original musical revue Make Me a Song: The Music of William Finn (Drama Desk/Outer Critics Circle Nominations). Rob is also the Producing Artistic Director of TheaterWorks in Hartford, CT. At TheaterWorks, he has directed more than 50 productions, and recently conceived a new holiday comedy, Christmas on the Rocks. Rob’s work has been seen at regional theaters around the country, including multiple shows at Goodspeed Musicals, where he recently completed an acclaimed 50th anniversary revival of Fiddler on the Roof. This spring he will direct Fiddler on the Roof in Athens, Greece.


Inside Asolo Rep: SOUTH PACIFIC
Wednesday, November 5 at 11am
Asolo Rep Mezzanine
Tickets are $5. Free for donors and Guild members.

Discover what it takes to bring this Pulitzer Prize winning musical to the stage. This insightful program will feature the musical’s director, Rob Ruggiero, and music director, William Waldrop. Asolo Rep’s Literary Manager and Dramaturg Lauryn Sasso will guide this illuminating panel discussion. Inside Asolo Rep is sponsored by Observer Media Group and Hotel Indigo

Veterans Celebration at SOUTH PACIFIC
Tuesday, November 11 at 7:30pm; pre-show activities beginning at 6:30pm
Asolo Repertory Theatre

Asolo Rep is proud to host military personnel, veterans and their families at the first preview performance of SOUTH PACIFIC. All current military and veterans receive one free ticket and a second ticket for a guest at just $10. Two additional family members can receive half-price tickets. A special ensemble from the Sarasota High School Mighty Sailor Band will perform from 6:50pm to 7:20pm to honor those who have served and continue to serve this nation. The outdoor pre-show celebration is free and open to the public. Discounted tickets for the 7:30pm performance of SOUTH PACIFIC are available online or by visiting or calling the box office.

Saturday, November 22 at 2pm; pre-show activities begin at 11:30am
Asolo Repertory Theatre
Tickets are $60 for a family of four; two tickets must be for patrons under the age of 18. Additional tickets for children under age 18 are available for $12.

Dance in the “SOUTH PACIFIC Music Video” to upbeat, re-mixed versions of the musical’s classic hits. Learn simple choreography and then perform in this sure-to-go-viral music video. This family friendly event will also feature interactive activities exploring the world of the musical prior to the performance and a post-show discussion with the cast.

Carefully Taught: Singing Social Change
Sunday, December 14 at 7pm
FSU Center for the Performing Arts
Cook Theatre
Tickets are $15

Sample songs from the last century of American musical theatre and listen for the sounds and sparks of change in this intimate educational performance.


The Scoop
One hour prior to every performance of SOUTH PACIFIC
Asolo Rep’s Mezzanine

Arrive one hour before curtain to hear the ideas and inspirations that contributed to the making of SOUTH PACIFIC.

Tuesday Talkbacks
Every Tuesday performance
Asolo Rep’s Mezzanine

Join us for an intimate post-show discussion with featured actors or guests following every Tuesday performance of SOUTH PACIFIC.

Meet the Actors
Sunday, November 30 at 2pm
Asolo Rep’s Mertz Theatre

Immediately following the 2pm matinee, ask questions and learn more from members of the cast at this intimate discussion.

Tickets for SOUTH PACIFIC and the entire 2014-2015 Asolo Repertory Theatre season are on sale now. To purchase tickets, call 941.351.8000 or 800.361.8388, visit, or visit the Asolo Repertory Theatre Box Office, located in the lobby of the theatre. Asolo Repertory Theatre is located at 5555 North Tamiami Trail in the Florida State University Center for the Performing Arts. The box office is currently open Monday – Friday, 10am – 5pm. Box office hours in season, beginning October 29, are Monday 10am – 4pm, Tuesday 10am – 7:30pm, Wednesday – Saturday 10am – 8pm, and Sunday 10am – 2pm. The box office closes at 4pm when there are no evening performances and phone lines close one hour prior to the start of any performance. Season subscription packages are also available online and by visiting or calling the box office.

Asolo Rep is able to present SOUTH PACIFIC  because of the generosity of its sponsors. Corporate sponsors for SOUTH PACIFIC are Sarasota Magazine, Herald-Tribune Media Group, SNN Suncoast News Network, Hyatt Place, Michael’s on East, 107.9 WSRZ, and Gulf Coast Community Foundation. Asolo Rep’s major season sponsors are Florida State University, Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation, Gulf Coast Community Foundation, Designing Women Boutique, The Shubert Foundation, Publix Super Markets Charities, The Woman’s Exchange, Inc., Tropical Cadillac, and Community Foundation of Sarasota County. Asolo Rep’s artistic programs are paid for in part by Sarasota County Tourist Development Tax revenues. Asolo Rep is sponsored in part by the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs and the Florida Council on Arts and Culture.

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