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Moorestown Theater Company to Perform Rodgers & Hammerstein Classic

The theater company opens "South Pacific," its 51st production, Friday, starring 6ABC News anchor Rick Williams.

(MTC) is putting on a fantastic production beginning this weekend, a classic Rodgers & Hammerstein musical.

However, because of certain rights restrictions, producing artistic director Mark Morgan can’t tell you what it is. He can tell you it’s won 10 Tony Awards, the film version won an Academy Award for Best Sound in 1950, and the play won the Pulitzer Prize for Best Drama.

Add all that up and you get … South Pacific.

The Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization granted MTC the rights to put on South Pacific, but because there are other touring productions, told Morgan he couldn’t name the play in advertisements or on the theater company’s Facebook page.

So Morgan has had to refer to the production as a “restricted title show” in advertisements and avoid using the name in public as much as possible.

“It’s been an interesting process, one I hope I never have to go through again,” he said. “But we’ve had fun with it.”

Morgan’s actors have had plenty of fun as well preparing for the play.

Channel 6ABC news anchor (and Moorestown resident) Rick Williams returns to the MTC stage to play Luther Billis, who Williams described as sort of the “comic relief.”

“Doing what I do for a living—(covering) murder, mayhem—it’s nice to do something that is kind of a departure,” he said.

South Pacific is the fifth MTC production Williams has performed in and he said the experience is consistently rewarding. His son, 9-year-old Nicholas, an even more seasoned MTC veteran than his father, and his wife will both be performing in the play.

“Even though it’s a big time commitment—it’s like a part-time job … it’s a valuable experience,” Williams said. “It’s a family thing … When it’s all said and done, we’ll be said that it’s over.”

Tom McHale, who plays one of the other leads, Emile de Becque, said the cast (35 adults and two children) is one of the best he’s ever worked with, “just from an enjoyment standpoint.”

McHale and his costar, Jaimie Geddes, who plays love interest Nellie Forbush, described South Pacific as a timeless story with great music “that you’ll be humming on the way home,” McHale said.

The play, set on an island during World War II, tells “two parallel love stories threatened by the dangers of prejudice and war,” according to the Rodgers & Hammerstein website.

Mark Pinzur, who also plays de Becque in half the productions, said the play is a classic not just because of its exceptional musical numbers, but because it’s extremely timely: “The main plot of two people who are in love, but face racial prejudice, hasn’t gone away unfortunately.”

South Pacific begins its run at the at 7 p.m. Friday. It will also show at 7 p.m. on Nov. 12, 18 and 19, and at 2 p.m. Nov. 13 and 19.

Tickets are $15. However, with opening night falling on Veterans Day, Morgan said the theater company is offering a buy one, get one deal to veterans on Friday. Veterans will also receive a discount for subsequent showings, with tickets priced at $11 (also in recognition of opening night falling on 11-11-11).

“It’s our way of thanking them,” he said.

For more information, visit the theater company website or call MTC's administrative director Annette De Rosa at 856-777-8357.

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