By Wayne Harada
Cathy Foy-Mahi, the veteran Island entertainer with decades of performing credits on stage, in nightclubs and also in New York, will join the second national tour of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “South Pacific,” performing the Bloody Mary role.
It is the part originated by her pal Loretta Ables-Sayre at Lincoln Center three years ago, in the first-ever revival on Broadway in 60 years.
“I’m no spring chicken,” said the 1975 Miss Hawaii, who originated the role of Chah Li in the off-Broadway “Song of Singapore” in New York. “But it’s exciting to join the tour and carry on the Hawaii tradition of my friend Loretta. I’ll do the best I can to make Hawaii proud.”
The second national tour is a non-equity endeavor but will retain the flavor of the Broadway original, which, coincidentally, will be transplanted to London's West End this summer.
Ables-Sayre is preparing to leave for London production on Wednesday (July 13) to join the British cast, which is prepping to launch “South Pacific” at the Barbicon Theatre. It opens Aug. 15 for a run through Oct. 1. A U.K. tour will follow and it’s likely that Ables-Sayre will be in England for Christmas. “When am I going to get the opportunity to spend Christmas in the land of Dickens again?” she said.
Foy-Mahi said she prepared an audition tape, singing “Bali Ha’i” and prepared two obligatory scenes, that was shipped to New York; then she was called back to try out in person on Broadway where she worked with director Sarna Lapine, who is directing the touring show.
“Loretta had made such an impact in New York,” said Foy-Mahi (Ables-Sayre earned a Tony nomination for Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a Musical). “And now she brings the aloha to Europe.”
They exchanged chatter about the role.
“I talked to Loretta and got tips about the part,” said Foy-Mahi, who didn’t audition for the role when producers originally came to Hawaii several years ago to seek out local prospects to portray the Tonkinese character in the musical based on James Michener’s wartime novel. “I didn’t feel I was right at the time and recommended Loretta to the agents. When she called me (about the touring Bloody Mary slot), she said (the producers) had trouble finding actors who could sing or singers who could act,” said Foy-Mahi.
She now feels has the goods; over the past two decades, Foy-Mahi has built her up her credits on the community theater stage, playing a variety of roles of substance and range — Mazeppa, the trumpet-wielding stripper in “Gypsy,” Madame Thenardier, the adoptive mom of the young Cosette and a barkeep in “Les Miserables,” and Mrs. Meers in “Thoroughly Modern Millie.”
Bloody Mary, the entrepreneur who chews betel nuts, sports blackened teeth — something Foy-Mahi is prepared for. “I had to blacken my teeth for Madame Thenardier,” she said. “So right after the show, I’d get those Crest white strips on.” The character's two big tunes are “Bali Ha’i” and “Happy Talk.”
Foy-Mahi leaves Honolulu Aug. 20 to start rehearsals, for a Sept. 27 premiere at the Boston Opera House where the production will run two weeks, and tour for three months. After a break during the holidays, she returns for another three months.
She has yet to meet her cast.