Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Enchanted Evenings in Sacramento: Eric Kunze in SOUTH PACIFIC

My hobby of collecting bonus miles from using my credit cards to charge everything from gum to auto insurance has enabled me to fly free across the country to see my friend Eric perform in various musicals.  This time I was able to fly first class on US Airways (using American airmiles) and returning on Southwest miles.  The purpose of the trip was to see Eric do SOUTH PACIFIC in Sacramento at California Musical Theater.  I had done the musical years ago as Music Director at Troy Players and had fond memories of the show.  Of course, there was no comparison to the budget, scope and magnitude of the SMT production.

Their cast was perfectly chosen by the director, Glenn Casale.  Eric played Lt. Cable, a preppy officer who falls in love with Liat, a Polynesian girl, but is unable to bring himself to marry her due to her skin color.  A similar plotline is the romance between nurse Nellie and Emile DeBeque, who she finds out was married to a Polynesian woman, who later died, and has two children by her. The theme of the musical is to show racial bigotry.  My research revealed that the musical was based upon the book, "Tales of the South Pacific", by James Mitchener, written in 1946.  I obtained the book and read it in it's entirety on my flight out west.  It provided me with the perfect base upon which to see the musical five times that week.  Each chapter was devoted to a different character, Lt. Cable and Liat's story being the longest.  The chapters of the book were cleverly woven together into a cohesive story and adapted into a musical by composer Oscar Hammerstein and Joshua Logan, military advisor, with music by Richard Rodgers.

I hit the ground running.  After landing in Sacramento at noon on Wednesday, I picked up my rental car and drove to the downtown Holiday Inn Express, directly across the street from the theater.  It was the hotel of choice for cast and friends and family of the cast because of its proximity to the theater.  But that is nothing compared to Eric, who had arrived two weeks ago, fresh from his run of THE LITTLE MERMAID in Dallas, Houston and Atlanta.  He had only two weeks to prepare for the next role.  Luckily he had done it twice before.  He literally got off the plane from Atlanta and went straight to the barber for a haircut and costume fittings.  The next day came publicity photos and rehearsals.  Less than two weeks later the show was up and running to rave reviews.

I was to see the show five nights in a row.  I met up with friends and fans of Eric at the theater and we greeted him at the stage door each night after the performance, walking back to the hotel with him.   My days were full of meeting new friends, old friends and fans of Eric. A young friend from San Jose, Carolyn,  drove up to spend the night with me and attend the show.  On Saturday there were two groups who gathered.  The first was made up of people from Fodors travel website.  With the exception of Phil and Marisa, I only knew them from their posts in the forum.  The group met me at Cafeteria 15L and we had a great time visiting from 11:30 until 4:30, when my next group from the Eric Kunze fansite met there, at the very same long table.

Most of those people were new online friends as well.  I said goodbye to my Fodors friends and continued the party, which consisted of my friend Susan and her parents, who had seen Eric in the matinee that day;  Jane who brought leis and goody bags,  and Sheryl;  Perry who brought his mother Eleanor to the matinee, Gale, who had traveled from San Jose in a wheelchair by train, Rena, also from San Jose, Robert, a new friend and admirer of Eric and Craig and Lori, new to our group.

My visit ended on the last night with a cast party at the hotel on the closing night of the show, always a sad time for performers. But it's a small elite group who most likely will be performing again in the future. It was a privilege to get to meet and chat with many of them.

Here is a slideshow of my favorite pics from SOUTH PACIFIC:

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