Love and laughs in Aspen High’s production of ‘South Pacific’ |

Love and laughs in Aspen High’s production of ‘South Pacific’

Katie Redding
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Lena Nicholson/Special to The Aspen TimesAspen High School's spring play, "South Pacific," opens Thursday.

ASPEN ” The “South Pacific” rehearsals have been full of laughter, pranks, pratfalls ” and shouts of “you’re not doing it right,” at every stage kiss, say the Aspen High School cast.

But after three months of practice, the 45 cast members were almost full of seriousness as they prepared for their last dress rehearsal Wednesday night in a flurry of Scrunch hairspray, L.A. Looks styling gel, lipstick and eyeliner. The play opens today, with performances Friday and Saturday as well.

The 1949 musical is known for its popular Rodgers and Hammerstein songs ” like “Some Enchanted Evening” and “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair.” The story takes place in an island paradise where two parallel love stories are threatened by the dangers of prejudice and war.

“It’s a dual love story with funny little extras,” explained Chelsey Hanle, who plays a nurse in the play.

Lara Okamoto, the theater teacher at the high school who is directing the production, said the play was chosen because the songs were likely to be a hit ” and the themes of love, war and prejudice relevant even today.

But it also suited the cast.

“We have a lot of guys,” explained Okamoto. “And we didn’t want to scare them away with a fluffy musical. We wanted something where they would have some meaty guy parts.”

The choice has turned out well, according to Okamoto.

“I really love our guys’ dance numbers,” Okamoto said. “They’re not really dancers, but they make it work. It might not be the prettiest thing you’ve ever seen, but it’s the most entertaining.”

And as befits a school play, the production has not been without its learning moments.

For Tim Beirne, who has a leading role as Frenchman Emile De Becque, one of the challenges has been learning to play a 45-year-old Frenchman. Fortunately, he said, his father served as an outstanding role model.

“He’s actually 46,” said Beirne. “And he’s almost like Emile De Becque.”

For Hanle, it was learning the Follies dance.

“I’m not a dancer,” she explained.

But Okamoto said she has seen some of the greatest growth in student Betsy Carlson, a “theater newbie” who landed the role of Bloody Mary.

“She’s hilarious,” said Okamoto. “She’s entertaining. And she’s got a beautiful voice. She was pretty raw when she started, but she’s come a long way.”

The play shows at 7 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday at the Aspen School District Theater, located on the Aspen School District campus in the Aspen Elementary School. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for students, and are available in advance at the Wheeler Box Office by calling (970) 920-5770, or by visiting

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Aspen and Snowmass Village make the Aspen Times’ work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.


Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User