Carolyn Anne Miller as Nellie Forbush and William Michals as Emile de Becque will star in “South Pacific,” which opens on June 5 at Maine State Music Theatre. Courtesy of Maine State Music Theatre

Encompassing themes of love, war and racism, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein’s musical “South Pacific” will grace the Pickard Theater stage in Brunswick this June, bringing with it a 75-year-old message that remains relevant today, according to lead actor William Michals.

Maine State Music Theatre’s production of the musical will kick off its summer show season with Broadway-caliber talent and a video wall to enhance the elaborate stage backdrop. The inaugural production precedes stage hits like “Funny Girl,” “White Christmas” and “Beautiful” — all classics that have graced Broadway.

“South Pacific,” first performed in 1949 on Broadway, is no gentle introduction to the show season. The dark history portrayed in the musical is, at times, confronting and uncomfortable. Made famous by songs such as “Some Enchanted Evening” and “Younger Than Springtime,” “South Pacific” the show explores the complications of interracial love in the Pacific Theater of World War II.

In the musical, Arkansas nurse Nellie Forbush, portrayed by Maine State Music Theatre veteran Carolyn Anne Miller, must navigate her own racial prejudice as a white woman when she falls in love with a Frenchman, Emile de Becque (played by Michals), who has mixed-race children.

Michals, who first performed in the role of Emile in high school, has explored the nuances of the character throughout several high-profile performances, including on Broadway at Lincoln Center. With decades of experience in the role, he said he understands the message of the production more now than ever.

“I cannot help but feel that [the show reflects] part of the American experience right now,” Michals said, comparing Emile’s story to fears of doxing (the publication of someone’s private information with malicious intent), violence and intimidation when speaking out on political issues.


Michals’ character, Emile, fled his country after he stood up to an intimidating and authoritarian strongman in his town. At one point in the show, Emile explains that he stood in a public square and called on fellow citizens to stand against the strongman but was left to face the enemy alone.

“When I stand on stage and I say, ‘Will you stand up against this man?’ I know what I’m feeling in my heart,” Michals said. “And I hope that this message reverberates out there.”

The complexities of the show’s message are packaged neatly with Rodgers and Hammerstein’s sweet, iconic show tunes. The show’s soundtrack features romantic, swelling melodies from the pit orchestra and powerful ballads that will have the audience humming long after the performance.

Lt. Joe Cable, played by Jake Goz, holds love interest Liat, played by Gabi Chun, in a “South Pacific” performance. Courtesy of Maine State Music Theatre

The show’s famous love song, “Some Enchanted Evening,” is Emile’s tender expression of his love for Nellie. “Younger than Springtime” is sung by Lt. Joe Cable, who is played by Jake Goz, a stage actor making his MSMT debut. The song is an impassioned declaration of feelings for his love interest, Liat, who is played by actor and dancer Gabi Chun. “This Nearly Was Mine,” which Michals described as the “saddest song written in C major,” will showcase the actor’s rich, warm vocal tones as Emile laments his heartbreak.

Chemistry between and Emile and Nellie is sure to captivate audiences. As Nellie, Carolyn Anne Miller’s sweet-timbred voice and powerful belting are bound to bring out the sunny, spunky nature of the American nurse. Miller’s knack for musical theater also makes falling in love on stage easy, Michals said

In fact, the show is really about Nellie, Michals argued. Her character arc to accepting Emile’s children, despite the harsh realities of pervasive racism in the 1940s, is a triumphant lesson on the power of love. If there was one takeaway that the audience should walk away with, he said, it would be the image of Emile, Nellie and the two children together.

“Their love does conquer all,” Michals said.

South Pacific will run at the Pickard Theater at Bowdoin College in Brunswick from June 5-22. Tickets are for sale at

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