CAMERON – The Milam Community Theater debuts its 2013 version of the award-winning musical “South Pacific” at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Cameron ISD’s Performing Arts Center.

This is the second time MCT has performed “South Pacific,” according to MCT board president Kyle Deal.“The first time we did ‘South Pacific,’ back in 1996, it was all we could do to get a cast,” said Deal. “We’re putting nearly 30 actors from all over Central Texas on stage for this show, plus dozens more back stage, not to mention a great pit orchestra.”

The popular Broadway show is the second production of Milam Community Theater’s 20th anniversary season and a reprise of the first major musical the community theater group produced. Betsi Chamlee of Temple returns as director.

Chamlee cast Shelby Thomason of Rockdale to play the part of Nellie Forbush and Lucas Howland of Killeen as Emile De Becque.

“I’m excited,” the 16-year-old Thomason said of her lead female role. “I’ve never seen ‘South Pacific’ before I auditioned, so I just auditioned. It’s exciting because I am so young and generally that’s why I don’t get parts because my age is always off. I sing a lot in the play.”

“I think what stands most out about South Pacific is it’s a musical comedy. There are so many elements that are so serious, but it’s not to the point where it’s not an enjoyable to watch. It’s not depressing even though it’s not a cheerful time in our history.”

She has performed with the MCT in “The Sound of Music” and “Annie.”

“I just like performing,” said Thomason who attends Thorndale High School. “I enjoy it.”

This show marks the first time for Lucas Howland to perform at the PAC.

“I think it has wonderful songs and a great story,” he said. “I’m thrilled to be a part of it. I feel lucky to be in the show to be singing these songs. I sing several songs and reprises.

“South Pacific” is based on James A. Michener’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1947 book Tales of the South Pacific, combining elements of several of the stories.

The plot centers on an American nurse stationed on a South Pacific island during World War II who falls in love with a middle-aged expatriate French plantation owner, but struggles to accept his mixed-race children.

A secondary romance, between a U.S. lieutenant and a young Tonkinese woman, explores his fears of the social consequences should he marry his Asian sweetheart.

The issue of racial prejudice is candidly explored throughout the musical, most controversially in the lieutenant’s song, “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught.” Supporting characters, including a comic petty officer and the Tonkinese girl’s mother, help to tie the stories together.

“I’m delighted to have been invited back.” Chamlee said. “This is one of my favorite shows. It’s got great music, a lot of songs everyone will recognize like ‘Nothing Like a Dame,’ ‘Some Enchanted Evening,’ and ‘I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Out of My Hair.’”

“The first time we had our first auditions we had three people show up to audition and this cast has to have at least 25 in it,” Chamlee said. “We got it cast, but it was interesting. Bring whomever you can.

The venue is a familiar one to Chamlee. Shee directed “Fiddler on the Roof” in 2005, the first show held in the PAC. “This is my 10th musical to direct in Cameron over those 20 years,”Chamlee said. “I’ve been very lucky.”

The current cast, which Chamlee said spans in age from under 15 to over 60, has been rehearsing for the past eight weeks at the rate of four nights a week for three hours per night. It’s quite a statement of dedication for an all-volunteer cast. “The cast and crew make it work,” said Chamlee.

The play itself is a significant work in itself.

“It’s a very detailed play and fantastic treatise about a time in America that was distant, but not too distant” said Chamlee.

“It has a blockbuster score from Rogers & Hammerstein, won the Pulitzer Prize for drama and took 10 Tony awards in 1949. It was praised as a great treatment of racism in our world at that time and other kind of biases, like age and nationality,” she said.

“I think this is a show that has withstood the test of time,” said Howland. “It’s still done and done frequently. I think that is kind of cool and the message of the play is also.”