A visit to the theater is a quintessential New York City experience – at least for some…well, let’s say at least for me. And when I am lucky enough to score a ticket to a Tony award-winning revival before it ends its record-breaking run, I think that maybe for once the fates are on my side – which hardly ever happens.
South Pacific at Lincoln Center (another quintessential piece of New York City) is truly worth every Tony it won. There hasn’t been a revival of this Rogers & Hammerstein show for forty years. Probably because of the racially driven undertones combined with a war setting – not the normal happy-go-lucky musical. But I think it was waiting for the director Bartlett Sher to come along and add his special sensibility. The storytelling is stellar. Some think musicals lack story, but South Pacific – at least this production of South Pacific – manages to weave all stories in a concise and easy to understand manner. It lacks the usual “now let me break into a song to tell you how I feel” type of staging. But let me be absolutely honest…I have a soft spot for musicals, particularly Rogers & Hammerstein musicals so I can’t be completely impartial.
The stage design is innovative and packs a punch. It is the beach of the small island, complete with a view of Bali Hai in the distance. The cast is simply…perfect from the cock-eyed optimist Nellie (Kelli O’Hara) to the terribly sexy with a voice to die for Emile de Becque (my new crush the Brazilian hottie Paulo Szot) to the wonderful Bloody Mary (Loretta Ables Sayre) and the cowardly lion-esque Luther Billis (Danny Burstein). All unforgettable.
I don’t want to give away too much. The show is now on tour. If it comes to your town – go see it. Take your friends. Take your kids. Although it is set in the 1940’s the show is still relevant today, perhaps even more so. But don’t worry – it still has a happy ending.