Summer musical ‘South Pacific’ opens Thursday at Boykin Center

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The eighth annual Summer Community Musical kicks off at 7:30 p.m. today with the opening of Rogers and Hammerstein’s classic “South Pacific” at the Edna Boykin Cultural Center.

Co-produced by the Arts Council of Wilson and Barton College, the show runs for one weekend only, July 19, 20 and 21 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, July 22 at 3 p.m.

Director Caleb Skinner also serves as the musical director for the show and Trish Bradshaw is the production’s choreographer.

Skinner wanted to produce a classic, something that was appropriate for families.

“Just like in ‘The Sound of Music,’ Rogers and Hammerstein have a beautiful way of taking very difficult subject matter and surrounding it with beautiful music and charming characters so that it’s palatable,” Skinner said. “This show deals with race relations. That is the backbone of this show.”

Auditions for “South Pacific” were held May 15 and 17 and rehearsals began two days later. There are more than 40 people in the cast, plus an eight-piece orchestra that includes three college students home for summer break, a retired Wilson music teacher and a student at Duke’s divinity school.

Arriving in Wilson directly from graduating with a master’s degree in vocal performance from the University of Kentucky and just in time to begin rehearsals, Skinner is glad for the chance to work in Wilson. Skinner is a 2012 graduate of Hunt High School

“I am very grateful for this opportunity,” Skinner said. “There are a lot of local people who are trying to keep me around and trying to find me job opportunities and I am very thankful for that.”

“I am very lucky that I have such a wonderful support system besides my family,” Skinner continued. “I have my arts family.”

Some of the cast learned French for their roles from Sophia Stevens, who is also a cast member and the French teacher at Hunt.

“We started teaching the kids in the show the first day of rehearsal,” Skinner said. “They stayed after rehearsal and Sophia and I worked with them. It’s been a process polishing it the whole time and now it’s pretty daggone good.”

Set during World War II, “South Pacific” boasts a wardrobe that runs the gamut from bathing suits to military uniforms. Getting the U.S. Marine Corps uniforms correct as possible for stage use was important to Skinner.

“We had to do research on how to do an exact uniform,” Skinner said. “Of course, there are some uniforms where we may have had to exaggerate or make slight alterations so that it ‘reads’ on stage. At a minimum, you’re looking at these costumes from 10 feet away, but we use the 40-foot rule in theater.”

Skinner said costumers tried to get the patches and buttons as close as possible to the ones worn on uniforms during that period in history.

“Karyna Parrish is our costumer and has been wonderful,” Skinner said. “The costumes are really, really great. She made a lot of the costumes but we ordered a lot because a lot of these costumes had to be uniform, the same. Karyna made all the sarongs and most of the kids’ clothing. There was a lot of altering as well.”

Set designing was a challenge for this show because of the need to feature multiple locations, both interior and exterior. Michael Dornemann, the Barton College theater program’s technical director, served as set designer for “South Pacific.”

“The set is incredible,” Skinner said. “I am in awe of him and thankful for Michael. He has been an absolute dream to work with. The set is perfect for this space.”

The set even includes a working shower for the show’s classic song, “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair.”

Skinner said he has the utmost respect for everyone involved in the show.

“When it gets the hardest, they are really willing to buckle down,” Skinner said. “I’m lucky to be surrounded by people who are willing to give so much time to me.”

Tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for students, seniors and military and $10 for youth. They are available online at www.wilsonarts.com, the box office at the Boykin Center during regular business hours, and at the door of the shows.

For more information, call the Arts Council of Wilson at 252-291-4329.