The most well-known and beloved of all of Rodgers & Hammerstein scores, “South Pacific” tackled the truly taboo subject matter of racial prejudice with such effectiveness that, despite being composed some sixty years ago, substitute the persecuted ethnic group of your choice for Polynesian and World War II anxieties for post-9/11 paranoia, and the work resonates as freshly as if it were taken right out of today’s headlines. Light Opera Works’ artistic director Rudy Hogenmiller’s direction plays up the romance and fun, making ensemble numbers such as “Bloody Mary” and “There is Nothin’ Like a Dame” sparkle, and while the two pairs of lovers are all superb actors, only Larry Adams is able to give the score the vocal weight that it needs in numbers such as “Some Enchanted Evening,” the other voices being light and sometimes shrill show voices with even Bloody Mary having to vibrato her way through “Bali High.” While it’s great to hear a 30-piece orchestra performing this lush score, the perfunctory conducting of Roger L. Bingaman evokes little of the mystery that the picturesque music calls for. (Dennis Polkow)
Northwestern University’s Cahn Auditorium, 600 Emerson, Evanston, (847)869-6300. $27-$75. Through June 11.