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Backstage with South Pacific in Houston

With opening night just a few hours away, the 14-member traveling stage crew with South Pacific, aided by 60 locals, were in the final stages of the 13 hours it takes them to unload and set up Tuesday morning at the Hobby Center.

The reinvention of the classic Rodgers & Hammerstein musical done at the Lincoln Center won seven awards including Best Musical Revival and Best Director at the 2008 Tony Awards. The national tour has been going since August with no end in sight since demand keeps growing to see the show, according to Stage Manager Michael Krug.

Tuesday, Krug was busy watching the automation system (it looks like Venetian blinds) being set into place. The sand dune was scheduled to come in Tuesday afternoon, complete with palm tree.

Two showers -- complete with running water -- are placed onstage for the show. And the main house flies up and down. "Most everything comes from above down," Krug said.

Actors weren't due for a run-through till early evening (before the opening curtain at 8). Downstairs in the grand lobby, the orchestra (four travelers, including conductor Lawrence Goldberg, and 21 locals) were playing together for the first time.

"There's no synthesized music. No piano. It's all love music, all real," Krug said proudly. Lauren Lovell, public relations manager for Theatre Under the Stars, which is staging South Pacific, said special care is taken with South Pacific because of the way it was written for the "unmiked voice" and to make sure the singers aren't overwhelmed by the orchestra, she said.

Seven 53-foot trailers carry the entire set for South Pacific, including the flooring. "We are self-contained," Krug said, "We could do this show in the middle of Central Park."

So far the show has been pretty error-free according to Krug. A couple of cities ago they had to evacuate in the middle of the show because someone out in the lobby leaned up against a fire alarm, he said.

South Pacific runs at the Hobby Center, 800 Bagby, March 9-21. For tickets call 713-558-8887 or go to tuts.com.

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