‘South Pacific’ gets full symphony treatment in one-night show

The New Paradigm Theatre and the Norwalk Symphony Orchestra are teaming up for a one-night-only production, South Pacific: In Concert on Feb. 8 at the Norwalk Concert Hall. The beloved musical featuring Rodgers and Hammerstein’s music and lyrics depicts a rich story that speaks of love amid racial prejudice will be staged as a concert with a full orchestra playing the entire score and actors performing selections of dialogue from the 1949 Broadway hit.

The two organizations will also partner with another local nonprofit, Norwalk International Cultural Exchange (NICE), whose work reflects the theme of the show. Andrea Valluzzo spoke to New Paradigm’s artistic director Kristin Huffman about their inventive take on the show.

Andrea Valluzzo: How did having a full orchestra influence your choice of “South Pacific?”

Kristin Huffman: Some scores and some musicals are terrific when you just have a five-piece or six-piece band and you’re doing a full version but their scores might not be so great and lush for an orchestra. We are not using sets or costumes but will have a full orchestra on stage. When you go to just see a regular musical, you’re never going to see the 20-, 30-piece orchestra anymore so it’s a chance to hear the score as it was written.

AV: Tell us about some of the featured actors in this show.

KH: We have Broadway pros Benjamin Howes as Luther Billis and Patrick Connaghan as Lt. Cable. Luke Scott, who is playing the lead Emile De Becque, has a beautiful voice and humongous amount of operatic credits. We knew we wanted someone with a more operatic voice for that role. We have some wonderful up-and-coming performers. Emily Kristen Morris [as Nellie Forbush] has been on national tours as well and our Bloody Mary is actually local, Cidalia Kettles, a terrific performer and she’s been part of our theater company for a long time. Cidalia actually won our annual competition called “So You Want to be a Broadway Star.” I’m thrilled that we can now feature her in one of our shows.

AV: What about this show most excites you?

KH: We do shows that have social relevance and what I’m really proud of is that the symphony — and executive director Sandra Miklave especially — they hook up with us like-mindedly in how we help the community instead of just putting on a cultural event. I’m super excited about the show and the music but we chose to partner with the social justice nonprofit, NICE in Norwalk, because their mission reflects the theme of this show as well as cultural acceptance. We are not shying away from the fact that the show, while having pretty music, is about prejudice. It’s about overcoming prejudice. “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught” is a huge song for this so what I’m proud of is that New Paradigm Theatre Company has been an influence on another arts nonprofit as open-minded as the Norwalk Symphony to make that direct connection to spotlighting the work of another social justice nonprofit.