South Pacific

Lincoln Center

Vivian Beaumont Theater

The Vivian Beaumont Theatre is at Lincoln Center, a block from Broadway.  But at 65th Street, it is way north of the traditional Broadway Theatre District which runs from 40th Street to 54th Street, and from east of Sixth Avenue to West of Eighth Avenue. Yet the Vivian Beaumont, at 1,080 seats, is a bona fide Broadway venue.  So much for the geography lesson.

This is the first major revival of South Pacific since the original played Broadway from 1949-1954.  It was so soon after the war which it anecdotalized that some members of the original cast came to rehearsal in their real life Army and Navy uniforms!

It is good, but not spectacular.  I enjoyed it but not without reservations.  Who wouldn’t enjoy such a great play with so many familiar standards:  I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair;  Some Enchanted Evening;  There is Nothin’ Like a Dame;  A Wonderful Guy.  So of course go and see it.

But expect Andrew Samonsky as Lt. Joe Cable to not be so strong a singer, and expect him not to infuse the weakly written character with anything that elevates the role in any way.  The original Nellie Forbush was played by Kelli O’Hara who was highly touted in the role so I thought perhaps I was missing something, but I am happy to say that Laura Osnes, a young actress in her early twenties, was captivating in the role.  Brazilian opera singer Paulo Szot surely did justice to Emile de Becque, although a highly trained operatic voice seems oddly out of place in a Broadway musical.  Then again, Ezio Pinza, the first Emile de Becque, was also an opera singer so what do I know.

It is refreshing that in a time when every adult female human primate insists on being called ‘woman’, a company has the guts to retain the original inoffensive charm of the word dame.  Girl and broad are also unselfconsciously sung.

Just as other epics thrive before the backdrop of war:  Casablanca, Gone With the Wind;  so does this tale.  Casablanca is virtue vs. love.  GWTW is connection to home among thousands of other things.  South Pacific is about racial prejudice, how it can torture a soul so inflicted and how an innocent soul, although “Carefully Taught” as the song goes, can banish it from her heart.

Of course see this great Rodgers & Hammerstein classic.  The songs are great and the performances are mostly good.  Danny Burstein is worthy of mention as Luther Billis.  I love the play and am happy enough with this first ever major venue revival of it.