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Posted: September 12, 2007 3:00 a.m.

Arts Association gears up for 'South Pacific

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 The lights are primed, the chorus rehearsed and the curtains are ready to rise this weekend on The Arts Association in Newton County's production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Tony award-winning musical "South Pacific."

Set on a U.S. military base somewhere in the South Pacific during World War II, "South Pacific" tells the parallel love stories of two couples. When Nellie, a nurse from Arkansas, learns that the debonair French planter she has fallen in love with has biracial children from his first marriage to an island native, she must decide if her love for the planter Emile is greater than the prejudices she was raised with.

Likewise when the handsome Lt. Joe Cable - who is sent to the island on a top-secret spy mission against the Japanese - falls in love with a beautiful Tonkinese girl named Liat, he to must decide whether or not his love for Liat can overcome his own inherited prejudices.

Featuring a cast of 53 actors drawn from Newton County and the surrounding area, "South Pacific" is one of the largest and most technically complex productions the Arts Association has ever produced.

Director Anne Hargis - who directed the Arts Association's 2004 production of "Fiddler on the Roof" - described her cast as very diverse and energetic with actor's ages ranging form seven to 72.

"We have a nice stride," said Hargis Sunday evening during a rehearsal for the play. "We communicate well. The cast is very energetic. They bring a lot of talent. They're really capturing the spirit of the story."

According to Hargis, there is a range of theatrical and musical experience amongst her cast, with one cast member having over 50 years experience acting. For other cast members this will be their debut performance.

"That's been a nice challenge as a director, getting everybody up to the same level," Hargis said.

Principal cast members are Ric Chiapetta as Emile, Stacy Brooke Fields as Nellie, Brandon Rose as Lt. Joe Cable, Autumn Hamilton as Liat, Rick Bryant as Seabee Billis and Belinda Graves as Bloody Mary.

In addition to playing Emile, Chiapetta is also the producer for "South Pacific."

"It's a challenge," said Chiapetta of the experience. "You wear a number of hats and balancing all of that is a challenge but it's exciting because you can be involved and work on every aspect of the show."

Assisting Hargis are her assistant director Jay Tryall and musical director MaryLynn Luke.

Musical accompaniment to "South Pacific's" famous score which includes such classic songs as "Some Enchanted Evening" and "There is Nothin Like a Dame" will be provided by a double piano with assistance from a percussionist and a base.

"The music is some of the most beautiful music that Rodgers and Hammerstein ever wrote," said Hargis of the songs in "South Pacific."

There will be four performances of "South Pacific" which will be performed at the Porter Hall Auditorium at Newton High School on Sept. 14, 15, 21 and 22. Shows begin at 8 p.m.

Tickets to the show are $22 for adults, $19 for seniors and $11 for students.

Tickets can be purchased online at or at the door.

"South Pacific" is sponsored by the Arts Association's corporate sponsors McIntosh Commercial Bank, Beaver Manufacturing, Greyland Development Group-Easthaven and Sunbelt Builders.

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