James Michener's Words in South Pacific

PlayBlog   James Michener's Words in South Pacific
The sumptuous set design for the Broadway revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific earned the veteran designer Michael Yeargan his second Tony Award.

Director Bartlett Sher and his accomplished cast brilliantly conjured the variety of the World War II-set classic: its romance, danger, tenderness, joy and message of social justice. And delivering that goal of all American musicals: entertainment. But what the Tony-winning revival of South Pacific also did was pay homage to novelist James Michener's source material, the 1946 account of the battles fought upon that endless ocean over 60 years ago, and the veterans who braved their lives for their country.

One of the things that struck me — and kept me sitting in my seat long after the bows and the applause concluded — were the two curtains employed at the beginning and end of South Pacific.

Yeargan used Michener's opening and closing passages from "Tales of the South Pacific" to bookend the epic musical. As South Pacific concludes its Broadway run on Aug. 22, I thought I'd share them with you.

ACT I Curtain:

"I wish I could tell you about the South Pacific. The way it actually was. The endless ocean. The infinite specks of coral we called islands. Coconut palms nodding gracefully toward the ocean. Reefs upon which waves broke into spray, and inner lagoons, lovely beyond description. I wish I could tell you about the sweating jungle, the full moon rising behind the volcanoes, and the waiting. The waiting, the timeless, repetitive waiting."

ACT II Closing Curtain:

"They will live a long time, these men of the South Pacific. They had an American quality. They, like their victories, will be remembered as long as our generation lives. After that, like the men of the Confederacy, they will become strangers. Longer and longer shadows will obscure them, until their Guadalcanal sounds distant on the ear, like Shiloh and Valley Forge."

[caption id="attachment_9830" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Act I Curtain of South Pacific (Photograph by Joan Marcus)"]Act I Curtain of <i>South Pacific</i> (Photograph by Joan Marcus)[/caption]

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