Tony-Winning Revival of South Pacific Fades Into Broadway's Horizon Aug. 22
By Adam Hetrick
Bartlett Sher's lavish Tony Award-winning revival of South Pacific, starring Tony Award winner Paulo Szot and Tony Award nominee Kelli O'Hara, concludes its two-year Broadway run Aug. 22 at the Vivian Beaumont Theater.
Rodgers and Hammerstein's 1949 World War II-set musical returned to Broadway March 1, 2008, and officially opened April 3, 2008. Critics unanimously praised the Lincoln Center Theater production, initially billed as a limited engagement, which swiftly became an in-demand ticket and settled into an open-ended run.
South Pacific boasts a 30-piece orchestra playing the musical's original orchestrations by Robert Russell Bennett and dance and incidental music arrangements by Trude Rittmann. The production also includes the song "My Girl Back Home." A duet between Lt. Cable and Nellie Forbush, the song was cut from the original Broadway production but reinstated for the 1958 film adaptation.
Staged on the sprawling Beaumont thrust, South Pacific offers an expansive set by Tony Award-winning designer Michael Yeargan that is replete with palm trees, endless beaches and a 1940s bomber plane.
In a 2007 interview with Playbill.com, Sher spoke of bringing South Pacific back to modern audiences. "It's the only place where you can make a movie and a play at the same time," he said of working at the large Beaumont. (He previously staged The Light in the Piazza there in 2005).
"It really felt like we had to get it right," he added. "I felt a responsibility that if people came to see [South Pacific] it had to better than they remembered it somehow. So, a lot of work went into looking at the original script and the original orchestration and then creating a mise en scène, which would overwhelm them emotionally."
Part of the emotional experience is the use of text from James Michener's source material "Tales of the South Pacific," which is represented on the opening and closing curtains for the production.
O'Hara and Szot portray Ensign Nellie Forbush and French plantation owner Emile de Becque, respectively, the lovers who meet "across a crowded room." O'Hara earned her third Tony nomination and Szot took home his first Tony Award for their work in South Pacific. O'Hara departed the production in January, but returned for the final weeks of the revival and to also appear the PBS "Live from Lincoln Center" broadcast on Aug. 18.
The principal cast also includes Tony nominees Loretta Ables Sayre as Bloody Mary and Danny Burstein as Luther Billis. Andrew Samonsky plays Lt. Cable.
The cast also features Eric Anderson, Sean Cullen, Christian Delcroix, Luka Kain, Li Jun Li, Laurissa Romain and Skipp Sudduth, Michael Arnold, Craig Bennett, Christian Carter, Todd Cerveris, Helmar Augustus Cooper, Margot de la Barre, Laura Marie Duncan, Jule Foldesi, Taylor Frey, Rob Gallagher, MaryAnn Hu, Lamae, Robert Lenzi, Peter Lockyer, Garrett Long, Nick Mayo, Liz McCartney, George Merrick, William Michals, Marla Mindelle, Kimber Monroe, Alfie Parker Jr., George Psomas, Greg Roderick, Samantha Shafer, Jason Michael Snow, Jerold E. Solomon and Correy West.
South Pacific earned seven 2008 Tony Awards, including Best Revival of a Musical, Best Direction, Best Scenic Design, Best Costumes, Best Lighting and Best Sound.
The Lincoln Center Theater production has musical staging by Christopher Gattelli, sets by Michael Yeargan, costumes by Catherine Zuber, lighting by Donald Holder and sound by Scott Lehrer.
Based on Michener's Pulitzer Prize-winning collection of short stories "Tales of the South Pacific," the musical focuses on French plantation owner Emile de Becque and his love interest, Nellie Forbush, a naïve young nurse from Arkansas. Set against the backdrop of the Second World War, South Pacific offers a lushly romantic score while challenging audiences with themes of racial intolerance and bigotry.
South Pacific's score includes numerous American songbook classics, including "Some Enchanted Evening," "Wonderful Guy," "Younger Than Springtime," "Happy Talk," "Bali H'ai" and "There Is Nothing Like a Dame." South Pacific, starring Mary Martin and Ezio Pinza, won nine Tony Awards and the Pulitzer Prize for its Broadway debut in 1949.
A national tour of the LCT production is currently playing Toronto's Four Seasons Centre.
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