Back to Posts

Broadway Actors Join RPO to Bring Concert Version of “South Pacific” to Kodak Hall

Rochester, NY— “South Pacific” becomes the destination of choice when a hand-chosen group of Broadway performers and a 24-member chorus join Principal Pops Conductor Jeff Tyzik and the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra for a concert version of that beloved Rodgers and Hammerstein Broadway musical.  Performances take place at 8:00 pm on Friday, April 23 and Saturday April 24, at Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre.  Vocalist Doug LaBrecque, best known to RPO audiences for his Broadway concerts and Gala Holiday Pops appearances, is acting as the concert’s producer and director and has arranged for the performing talent. The concert version—with scripted song introductions and an occasional costume piece—includes the gorgeous “Some Enchanted Evening,” the humorous “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair,” the poignant song of young love, “Younger Than Springtime,” and the haunting “Bali Ha’i,” among others.

Actor William Michals even flies back and forth from New York to Rochester, performing the role of Emile de Becque in the Broadway version on Tuesday and Sunday nights, and in the concert version with the RPO on Friday and Saturday.  The New York City-based lead actors all have starred in numerous Broadway and touring productions of this show.  Jeff Tyzik is using the original Robert Russell Bennett orchestration with additional strings for lushness in the concert version.  The Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization has provided the “concert adaptation” written by David Ives.  Some of the supporting roles—including the characters of Liat and Captain Brackett and the chorus—have been chosen from local Rochester talent. The chorus will be prepared by Harold McAulliffe, musical director of Pittsford Musicals and founder and long-time director of the RPO Gala Holiday Pops’ Festival High School Chorale.

South Pacific premiered on Broadway in April 1949 and tells the tale of Nellie, a nurse on a Pacific Island during World War II, who falls in love with a much-older French plantation owner.  It is based James A. Michener’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Tales of the South Pacific, which focused on the issue of racism during that period. The musical is now considered to be one of the genre’s masterpieces, inspiring a film adaptation as well as numerous Broadway revivals.

Tickets for these performances are $26-$74, with limited $75 box seats available for Saturday night, online 24/7 at; by phone (454-2100); in-person from the RPO Box Office, 108 East Avenue, 10:00 am-5:00 pm, Monday-Saturday (non-concert Saturdays, 10:00 am-3:00 pm); and seven days a week at area Wegmans.  A convenience fee may apply.  The Pops Series is sponsored by Wegmans; this concert is sponsored by Paychex, Harter Secrest and Emery LLP, and Dr. Jacques and Mrs. Dawn Lipson.


Sara Jean Ford (Ensign Nellie Forbush)
Ms. Ford wowed audiences as Christine Daae in the classic Andrew Lloyd Webber musical The Phantom of the Opera. She starred as Luisa in the recent New York revival of The Fantasticks and can be heard on the original cast recording. She was a member of the original cast of the critically acclaimed Broadway revival of Finian’s Rainbow, and appeared in the Chicago company of Wicked. She recently appeared in the ENCORES! At City Center production of Stephen Sondheim’s Anyone Can Whistle.  Regionally she has starred as Cunégonde in Candide, Carrie Pipperidge in Carousel, and she created the role of Nellie Oleson in Little House on the Prairie – The Musical at the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis. A graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, this appearance marks her RPO debut.

William Michals (Emile de Becque)
Michals made his Broadway debut as The Beast in Beauty and the Beast, and returned to the production as Gaston.  A recipient of the prestigious Anselmo Award, he also received Chicago’s “Jeff Equity Award” and the National STAR awards for his portrayal of Chauvelin in the national tour of The Scarlet Pimpernel.   He has toured in The Music Man, Les Misérables, Man of La Mancha, and Phantom of the Opera, and appeared Off-Broadway in See What I Wanna See.  Regional appearances include Threepenny Opera, Chicago, and The Sound of Music. On the opera stage, he has performed in The Marriage of Figaro, Carmen, La Bohème, and The Merry Widow. Television audiences have seen him in All My Children and Law & Order. Michals has made frequent appearances with leading American orchestras, and was featured in the recent Carnegie Hall tribute to Richard Rodgers with the New York Pops.  He currently is appearing on Broadway in South Pacific.

Kirby Ward (Luther Billis)
Kirby originated the lead role of Bobby Child in the London premiere of Crazy for You. On Broadway, he appeared in Show Boat, Never Gonna Dance, and Woman of the Year. In regional productions, he starred in My One & Only; Singin’ in the Rain; They’re Playing Our Song; George M; School For Wives; One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest; Evita; and Sugar Babies. Kirby is also a director and choreographer, and has performed with symphony orchestras worldwide. His original short film, Down in the Mouth, has been a favorite in film festivals around the country, winning best short film at the Kent Film Festival in Connecticut.

Aisha de Haas (Bloody Mary)
Ms. de Haas most recently has been seen in Road Show at The Public Theater. On Broadway, she has appeared in Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me; Caroline or Change; Rent; and Bring in Da Noise, Bring in Da Funk. She has been seen on television’s Law & Order; Law & Order: SVU; Third Watch; Ed; and on The Today Show.  Film appearances include Across The Universe; Rent; The Secret Lives Of Dentists; and Marci X. American and European Tours include Dreamgirls; Ain’t Misbehavin’; Little Shop Of Horrors; and as a back-up vocalist for Oleta Adams. She also has appeared at The York Theater, The Goodman Theater, The Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, Orchestra Hall, Town Hall, and in several performances with the Broadway Inspirational Voices.

Hugh Panaro (Lt. Joseph Cable)
One of Broadways’ most celebrated tenors, Panaro originated leading roles on Broadway in Side Show, Elton John’s Lestat, and Jule Styne’s last musical The Red Shoes.  He has also starred on Broadway as both Raoul and The Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera, Marius in Les Misérables and Gaylord Ravenal in Show Boat.  He was chosen by Barbara Streisand to be one of “The Broadway Boys” for her 2007 European tour. TV credits include Law & Order, Search for Tomorrow, Guiding Light, One Life to Live, and Another World.  He appeared as David in the film Broadway Damage, and has performed leading roles in numerous regional theaters throughout the country.  This performance marks Mr. Panaro’s RPO debut.

Hyein Jeon (Liat)
Hyein is a sophomore at the University of Rochester studying Cell and Developmental Biology.  Her first performances as an actress were at the University’s Todd Theatre. This performance marks her RPO debut.

Stuart Burke (Captain Brackett)
A Language Arts tutor for the Rochester City School District, Stuart is co-founder of Rochester Children’s Theatre. He is a United States Army veteran, has appeared in numerous regional and national commercials, and has garnered praise for performances in Biloxi Blues and A Year with Frog and Toad, among many others.

Two local children also are featured: playing Jerome is nine-year-old Meena Potter, a third-grader at Jefferson Road School; and as Ngana is seven-year-old Grace O. Rundberg, a first-grader at Trinity Montessori School.