Tickets are gone for the 8 PM April 8 South Pacific symposium-with-music, "Some Enchanted Evening," at Symphony Space in New York City.
The event, which includes perspective by Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization president Theodore S. Chapin and members of the original company, comes one day after the April 7 50th anniversary of the Broadway musical's opening.
Hosted by Symphony Space co-founder and artistic director Isaiah Sheffer, "Some Enchanted Evening" includes performances by David Campbell (singing Lt. Cable), Liz Callaway (singing Nellie) and George Hearn (singing Emile de Becque).
The 800 or so ticketholders will hear backstage recollections by original cast members of the 1949-54 run who were reunited April 7 in New York City. Betta St. John (the original Liat) and BarBara Luna (the original Ngana, who sang "Dites Moi") are expected to appear, along with former ensemble members Don Fellows, Richard Eastham and Rosalynd Lowe Mass.
"Symposium" is too stuffy a word for the evening, according to R&H's Bert Fink. "Celebration" is more appropriate, he said, particularly since the evening will be punctuated by live performances by Broadway's Hearn (La Cage aux folles, Sunset Boulevard) and Callaway (Baby) and Australian cabaret star Campbell. Fink confirmed April 8 that several South Pacific "trunk" songs (unused numbers, perhaps "My Girl Back Home," "Loneliness of Evening" or "Suddenly Lucky") will be sung by Campbell.
Also featured will be rarely-seen 1954 film footage of original stars Mary Martin and Ezio Pinza singing about 10 minutes of scenes from the show. Not publicly seen since its original broadcast (a General Foods sponsored tribute to R&H, run on all networks), the 16mm film footage includes a part of "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair," a reprise of "Some Enchanted Evening" with both stars and the entire song and dance of Martin performing "A Wonderful Guy."
Fink said the footage was shot concurrent to the 1949-54 run, so the staging is "fresh" and "absolutely" based on the original. That footage is also shown at the Museum of the City of New York's new South Pacific exhibit, "Younger Than Springtime," in a laser-disc format.
Several of the reunited cast members were war veterans, and women from the cast entertained in the war effort. "They will evoke the immediate post-war era and, I think, quite movingly, they all have stories about the war itself," said Fink.
"Their stories are amazing," Fink said. "Many of the original cast veterans are also World War II veterans, having actively served in both the European and Pacific theatres. One member of the ensemble stormed Omaha Beach at Normandy; another was a P.O.W. under the Nazis."
Fink pointed out how remarkable it was that five years after V-J Day, some of them "were appearing in the biggest musical of the post-war era, about the very war they had just survived!"
South Pacific, drawn from four of James Michener's stories in the collection, "Tales of the South Pacific," was considered groundbreaking for the commingling of an exotic wartime locale, its romantic plot and score and its serious exploration of racial bigotry, summed up in the Hammerstein lyric, "You've Got to be Carefully Taught." That song is generally thought to be the reason the musical captured the Pulitzer Prize.
The reunion was spearheaded by ensemble members Bill Thunhurst and Roz Lowe Mass, in association with The Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization, the privately-held partnership that protects and promotes the R&H catalog.
Festivities began 7:30 PM April 6 at the Warwick Hotel, with a private cocktail reception for the former cast members. April 7, the
Although the stars and featured players -- Mary Martin, Ezio Pinza, Juanita Hall, William Tabbert, Myron McCormick -- are all gone now, 30 original cast members and their spouses attended a noon April 7 dedication of the South Pacific exhibit, "Younger Than Springtime," as part of the Museum of the City of New York's larger "Broadway!" exhibit.
"Younger Than Springtime" will run at least a year and feature historical information and rare glimpses into the making of the show. The exhibit includes costume and set design sketches, posters and Playbills, a video kiosk with rare TV footage of Mary Martin and Ezio Pinza, Tony Awards, Martin's oversize "Honey Bun" sailor suit, and more.
The Museum of the City of New York is at 1220 Fifth Ave at 103rd St. Call (212) 534-1672 for information.
At 4:30 PM April 7 the cast members took a bow at the curtain call of the matinee of The Phantom of the Opera, at the Majestic Theatre, where South Pacific played. That moment was only open to Phantom ticketholders.
-- By Kenneth Jones