The Tony Award winning and lavish “South Pacific” rival from Bartlett Sher starring Kelli O’Hara, Tony Award nominee, and Paulo Szot, Tony Award winner, will conclude its Broadway run of two years at Vivian Beaumont Theater on August 22.
The World War II set 1949 musical by Rodgers and Hammerstein on March 1, 2008 returned to Broadway and opened officially on April 3, 2008. The production from Lincoln Center Theater was unanimously praised by the critics. Initially the production was billed a limited engagement, however it quickly became a ticket in demand and wound up with a run that was open ended.
“South Pacific” includes an orchestra of 30 musicians playing the original orchestrations for the musical by Robert Russell Bennett. The incidental and dance arrangements are by Trude Rittman. “My Girl Back Home” is also included in the production. The song is a duet between Nellie Forbush and Lt. Cable. The original Broadway production did not contain the song, however the film adaptation of 1958 did include it.
“South Pacific,” staged on the Beaumont’s sprawling thrust, provides an expansive set from designer Michael Yeargan, a Tony Award winner, complete with endless beaches, palm trees and a bomber plane from the 1940s.
Sher in a 2007 interview discussed bringing “South Pacific” to contemporary audiences. Speaking of working at the Beaumont he said, that’s the only place that a movie and play can be made at the very same time. In 2005 Sher’s “The Light in the Piazza” was staged at the Beaumont.
Sher added, it felt we needed to really get this right. I felt responsible if people were coming to see it (South Pacific) that it needed to better somehow than they remembered. Lots of work was put into looking at South Pacific’s original orchestration and original script. We created a mise en scene to emotionally overwhelm them.
Part of South Pacific’s emotional experiences comes from using Jame Michener text from source material for his “Tales of the South Pacific,” represented during the opening and closing of the production.
Kelli O’Hara plays Ensign Nellie Forbush and Paulo Szot plays Emile de Becque, French plantation owner, who are lovers meeting across the crowded room. For their “South Pacific” work Szot won his very first Tony Award and O”Hara received the third of her Tony nominations. In January O’Hara left the production. However, during the revival’s final weeks she returned and also appeared on the PBC broadcast “Live from Lincoln Center” on August 18.
Also included in the principal cast are Tony nominees Danny Burstein playing Luther Billis and Loretta Ables Sayre playing Bloody Mary. Lt. Cable is played by Andrew Samonsky.
Also featured in the cast are Correy West, Jerold E. Solomon, Jason Michael Snow, Samantha Shafer, Greg Roderick, George Psomas, Alfie Parker Jr., Kimber Monroe, Marla Mindelle, William Michals, George Merrick, Liz McCartney, Nick Mayo Garrett Long, Peter Lockyer, Robert Lenzi, Lamae, MaryAnn Hu, Rob Gallagher, Taylor Frey, Jule Foldesi, Laura Marie Duncan, Margot de la Barre, Helmar Augustus Cooper, Todd Cerveris, Christian Carter, Craig Bennett, Michael Arnold, Skipp Sudduth, Laurissa Romain, Li Jun Li, Luka Kain, Christian Delcroix, Sean Cullen and Eric Anderson.
In 2008 “South Pacific” won seven Tony Awards that included Best Sound, Best Lighting, Best Costumes, Best Scenic Design, Best Direction and Best Revival of a Musical.
South Pacific’s musical staging is from Christopher Gattelli, Micahel Yeargan does the sets, customes are from Catherine Zuber, sound from Scott Lehrer and lightning from Donald Holder.
The musical is based on the Pulitzer Price winning “Tales of the South Pacific,” James Michener’s short story collection, focusing on Emile de Becque, French plantation owner and Nellie Forbush, his love interest and naive young nurse hailing from Arkansas. With World War II serving as the backdrop, “South Pacific” provides a lush and romantic score while at the same time challenging its audience with themes of bigotry and racial intolerance.
The score of “South Pacific” includes several classics from the American songbook, including “There Is Nothing Like a Dame” “Bali H’ai,” “Happy Talk,” “Younger Than Springtime,” “Wonderful Guy” and “Some Enchanted Evening.” “South Pacific,” starring Ezio Pinza and Mary Martin won the Pulitzer Prize and nine Tony Awards for its 1949 Broadway debut.
Currently a national tour of Lincoln Center Theater’s production is playing at Four Seasons Centre in Toronto.