Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II South Pacificwith Mary Martin and Ezio Pinza, premiered in New York in 1949. Directed by Joshua Logan, it won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and ran for 1,925 performances.
It has a wonderful emotional score. The songs include An enchanted evening, Younger than spring, I’m in love with a wonderful guy, I’ll wash this man right out of my hair and There’s nothing like a lady.
The book based on James Micheners Tales from the South Pacific, tells two wartime romances set on the islands of Samoa during World War II. The very notion of intermarriage caused problems for the show as it toured the southern states in the early 1950s.
But South Pacific is not a race musical. It’s about racism, and the Daniel Evans production, which originally went to the Chichester Festival Theater last year, confronts racial prejudice from the start, during the overture.
Nellie (Gina Beck), a young US Navy nurse, falls in love with Emile (Julian Ovenden), a sophisticated, middle-aged French planter whose favorite books are Marcel Proust and Andre Gide. She has no trouble accepting that Emile once killed a man; but she balks at the idea of marrying him when she learns that he has married a Polynesian woman and has two children by her. Nellie was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, which became notorious for race riots in 1957.
The cultural differences between them are characterized by two different theater genres. Her songs belong to the world of the musical comedy stage; while his songs are much closer to the world of opera. The highlight is the singing by Julian Ovenden That was almost mine.
A young lieutenant (Rob Houchon) falls in love with Liat (Sera Maehara), a 17-year-old local girl, knowing full well that people back home would never accept a black woman as his wife. He has the show’s central indictment of racism when he sings, “You must be carefully taught to be afraid of people of different skins.”
Robert Tanitch reviews Rodgers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific at Sadler’s Wells Theatre, London
Source link Robert Tanitch reviews Rodgers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific at Sadler’s Wells Theatre, London