South Pacific Breaks 52-Year Box Office Record of DC's Arena Stage

News   South Pacific Breaks 52-Year Box Office Record of DC's Arena Stage The day that its revival of South Pacific earned a glowing review in the Washington Post, Arena Stage in DC broke its past sales records and reached an all-time daily sales high.
Kate Baldwin in South Pacific.
Kate Baldwin in South Pacific.

"As of 5:30 PM, we've sold 1,200 tickets for a total of $60,000 — both of these are record figures not only for a review day, but for any sales day," an Arena spokesperson told Playbill On-Line Dec. 16.

The review by Peter Marks, published Dec. 16 in the capital's paper of record, embraced the work of the resident theatre's artistic director, Molly Smith, who is making her musical theatre directing debut. Leads Kate Baldwin and Richard White were singled out, as well, in the respective roles of Nellie and Emile in the classic Pulitzer Prize winner by Josh Logan, Oscar Hammerstein II and Richard Rodgers. Marks called the staging "robustly entertaining." Brad Anderson as Lt. Cable and Lori-Tan Chinn as Bloody Mary also got warm reviews from Marks, formerly of the New York Times.

Part of the reason sales went so well Dec. 16, a spokesperson suggested, is that Arena, like most other arts organizations today, is able to process tickets via the website. The most recent Arena show that did business as briskly was the 1999-2000 Guys and Dolls, which originated at the Arena and subsequently went on tour.

Performances of South Pacific continue on Arena Stage's in-the-round Fichandler Stage to Feb. 2, 2003.

* The 1949 musical is drawn from James Michener's "Tales of the South Pacific." Previews began Dec. 6. Baayork Lee, the alumna of A Chorus Line, choreographs. Opening night was Dec. 13.

In its time, the show was praised for the richness of its score ("Some Enchanted Evening," "Bali Ha'i," "A Wonderful Guy"), its fluid, almost cinematic scenic transitions, and the socially-aware content focusing on racism. When originally staged, its cast included war veterans and it played to an audience that vividly remembered the losses of the recent conflict.

Fans of the show will note that the cut song, "My Girl Back Home," which is heard in the 1958 film, has been added to this production, with the permission of The Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization.

Baldwin appeared on Broadway in The Full Monty and in the original cast of Thoroughly Modern Millie, and played Clara in the Wilma Theatre staging of Passion in Philadelphia.White's many credits include playing the title role in Maury Yeston's Phantom at Theatre Under the Stars (preserved on CD) and performing the voice of Gaston in the film, "Beauty and the Beast."

In seeking "to expose the racial conflicts inherent in the piece," Smith has cast the military all Caucasian, and the Islanders are exclusively Pan-Asian," according to a spokesperson.

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Lori Tan Chinn (M. Butterfly) plays Bloody Mary, Brad Anderson (Broadway's Fosse and Kiss Me, Kate) plays Lt. Joe Cable, Liz Paw plays Liat and Lawrence Redmond plays Luther Billis. The company includes Madeline Elena Holland (Ngana), Brian Jordan Riemer (Jerome), Tuyet Thi Pham (Bloody Mary's Assistant), Max Perlman (Stewpot), Michael L. Forrest (Professor), J. Fred Shiffman (Capt. George Brackett), Kyle Prue (Cmdr. William Harbison), with Lawrence Brimmer, Cynthia B. Lin, Kevin M. Burrows, Eddie Marco, Cathy Carey, Andy Torres, Parker Esse, Clif Walker, Deanna Harris, Christine M. Williamson, Maureen Kerrigan, Joe Langworth, Elise Molinelli, Eva Langden, Michael Omohundro and Nikki Strong.

George Fulginiti-Shakar is music director, Jose Simbulan is assistant music director. Designers are Kate Edmunds (set), Robert Perdziola (costumes), Allen Lee Hughes (lighting), Timothy M. Thompson (sound).

Arena Stage, one of the first major American not-for-profit regional theatres, is at 1101 Sixth Street, SW, in Washington, DC. For information, visit www.arenastage.org.