Arts in New York City: Baruch College, Fall 2008, Professor Roslyn Bernstein
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South Pacific

The lights dim and the orchestra strikes a chord, pulling the audience into their seats.  As the overture concludes the stage silently creeps over the musicians’ heads, pushing the world of South Pacific into the world of the audience.  As the play progresses a giant airplane is brought on stage, setting it for the SeaBees to belt out their raucous rendition of “There Ain’t Nothing like a Dame”.  Their antics and underdog bromance keep the play glued together throughout the night, with the many plot lines separated by the different styles each actor will take with their role. 
If left to those that played Nellie Forbush and Emilie de Beque, the whole show would be a sappy soap, over dramatic and full of desperately longing looks.  The actor who played Luther Billis brought the right kind of crass and gut to the stage, leading his men in wild schemes and bantering with Bloody Mary. The actress was, thank goodness, the understudy, because if that were whom they always had on stage the show would’ve flopped months ago.  She played the part with precision, which does not do the part justice due to Mary’s unwieldy nature.
Joe Cable’s string of story, while the part was played extremely well, was tainted with creepiness whenever Liat was around because of poor blocking and direction.  In other words, I never had thought of Bloody Mary as a voyeur, but on this stage she was peering through the trees, hoping to see her girl get lucky.
The songs are all well sung and the lines all satisfactorily delivered, but each actor portrayed a caricature rather than a character, with is fine for Luther Billis and his rowdy band, but not for the main characters .  Emilie cannot merely be a sighing Frenchman; Nellie needs to be more then a cheerful blonde, Bloody Mary more then a crazy local.
Personally, I think reviving Rodgers and Hammerstein should just not be done.  They had their time and now it’s time to move on from their simple writing and childish songs.  They may have all sorts of meaning behind their writing, but the meaning is not worth sitting through a play that elementary school students are known to do well.