So How Does One Follow South Pacific?

PlayBlog   So How Does One Follow South Pacific?
South Pacific, news to nobody, is a hard act to follow, and today there is a cast of 35 faced with that undeniable reality, having turned in their 1,000th and final performance of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Pulitzer Prize winner Aug. 22 at Lincoln Center's Vivian Beaumont. Fortunately, most of them are fixed up just fine.

The 2008 revival, steered by Bartlett Sher, drew Tony nominations for Kelli O'Hara (as Nellie), Paulo Szot (as Emile), Loretta Ables Sayre (as Bloody Mary) and Danny Burstein (as Billis), and Szot won the prize.

An Argentine baritone recruited from the New York City Opera for this Broadway debut, Szot will be easing himself out of the musical theatre venue with a two-week engagement at Café Carlyle (Sept. 14-25) before he returns full-time to the opera world: six Don Giovannis in Dallas in October, three Carmens at the Metropolitan Opera in January, a Carnegie Hall concert with Deborah Voigt in May, ten Cosi fan Tuttes in Paris in June/July, four Carmens in Tokyo in September and a dozen more Carmens in San Francisco in October.

O'Hara is hesitant to post any immediate work plans beyond an Oct. 15 gig for the Barbara Cook cabaret series at the Kennedy Center, followed by a run at Feinstein's at Loews Regency the last two weeks of October, but work on her longtime secret recording projects for late 2011 — "Christmas with Kelli" and "Take Me to Christmas Past" — appears to be coming together. All this — plus Owen James Naughton, for whom she took South Pacific maternity leave — seems to rule out a rumored reunion with Harry Connick Jr. for an incoming Broadway musical that is currently starless.

Burstein is taking a full day off before beginning his next Bartlett Sher, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, which Dirty Rotten Scoundrels songwriter David Yazbek and book writer Jeffrey Lane adapted from a 1988 Pedro Almodovar movie. It begins previews Oct. 2 and opens Nov. 4 at the Belasco.

"I play Mambo Taxi Driver," says Burstein. "He's — as Pedro Almodovar described to me — 'the angel of the city,' one of those unique individuals who embodies the city they live in, its spirit and flavor. He takes on the problems and emotions of those who enter his taxi and tries to make everything better." (In the movie, the character had a bleached-blond pompadour, and his taxi was a combination drugstore/bar.)

Matthew Morrison originated the role of Lt. Joe Cable, played it for nine months and then went to the head of the class to teach the “Glee” high-schoolers as Will Schuester, a role for which he is currently in Emmy contention. Andrew Samonsky worked his way up through the ensemble ranks and then stepped from Lt. Eustis Carmichael to Lt. Joe Cable, playing the part for the PBS telecast on Aug. 18.

South Pacific was the second sold-out show to shutter Aug. 22 for Christopher Gattelli, who did the Tony-nominated choreography. Radio Girl, which he choreographed and directed at the Norma Terris Theatre in Chester, CT, ended its enthusiastically received break-in run as well. On Aug. 24, he confers with producer Kelly Gonda and the show’s creators (book writer Daniel Goldfarb, lyricist Susan Birkenhead, composer Henry Krieger) about the next step.

Aug. 24 is also when, as previously noted, South Pacific’s Tony-winning director, Sher, commences his next musical, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, with Patti LuPone, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Sherie Rene Scott, Laura Benanti, Mary Beth Peil, de'Adre Aziza and aforementioned Danny Burstein.

— Harry Haun

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