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

The Tony Award Musical

South Pacific

South Pacific

Put together a dish of Tony Award nominees/recipients and a deeply moving drama with an exhilarating musical score on the side for a five star meal you won’t forget – South Pacific. First performed half a century ago, Rodgers & Hammerstein puts this exotic beauty back on stage as a Broadway musical with a re-invigorated passion.

South Pacific explores and challenges many cultural views of Western society during the 1940s, namely the abhorrence of romance with Eastern natives. Forbidden love outlines this story’s drama; impulse fills it. As the story is set in the times of the second Great War, we also get a nice insight into the lives of American soldiers who were fighting the Japs amidst an unknown territory. The soldiers provide jokes and other comical debriefs that cast the musical in a more cheery mood, despite the nature of the drama being told.

With South Pacific, there is something else besides music to appreciate. It’s like eating a slice of cheesecake, only to find a layer of sweet, chocolate filling in the middle. You hear the music and you watch the comedy, and you think to yourself, “It’s damn good.” But then, you discover that there is a message the play is trying to convey, something explicitly woven into the long dialogues of the protagonists, that sweet chocolate filling, and you think to yourself, “It’s better than damn good.”

December 18, 2008   Comments Off on The Tony Award Musical

South Pacific

Lincoln Center Theater’s Rodgers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific is the first “Broadway” revival of the show since its opening nearly 60 years ago. As one enters the theater, there is a script spread across the stage, upon which are projected the first few sentences of James Michener’s “Tales of the South Pacific,” the book upon which the show was based: “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.” [Read more →]

December 6, 2008   Comments Off on South Pacific

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.  [Read more →]

December 2, 2008   Comments Off on South Pacific

The other side of the World audiences recognized the success of the play. South Pacific, opened at the Vivian Beaumont Theater at Lincoln Center, captured the audiences with the originality of the music by the orchestra and the theme of love and racial prejudice. Although the original play had a bigger impact, South Pacific was able to convey the idea that many issues from the past are still relevant today, such as the debate on the legality of gay marriage, very similar to the arguments on interracial marriage sixty years ago.
South Pacific centered on the love story between Ensign Nellie Forbush, naïve Navy nurse from Little Rock, Arkansas, and Emile de Becque, affluent French planter owner, with the subplot of love between Lieutenant Joe Cable and Liat, daughter of Bloody Mary. The play advanced with the struggles both couples have had for facing racial prejudice from the society as well as inner conflicts within the characters. The play also showed other elements of struggles of soldiers during World War II, particularly the African Americans. During one of the musicals, they were separated from the rest of the Seabees. By including this small part of the play, the director achieved his goal of not only questioning interracial marriage but as well as military segregation.  [Read more →]

November 25, 2008   Comments Off on The other side of the World

Sunlight on the Sand AND Dames Aplenty

what aint they got?

what ain't they got?

Ladies and Gentlemen, there is sunlight on the sand and dames aplenty in the sparkling new revival of Roger and Hammerstein’s “South Pacific” regardless of what twinkling hedonist Luther Billis’ (as played by a cheeky Danny Burnstein) groans.

Stepping into the theater I instantly felt a sense of glee and burning anticipation in the crowd. This anticipation was not misplaced as I observed that many of the beaming theatergoers were probably old enough to have seen the original “South Pacific”.  I wondered if this musical was good enough to see more than once and after watching it, I am sure it is. Their anticipation slowly changed into participation as I was touched by many couples sitting side by side slowly singing along or mouthing the words. My peers and I may not have been in the same situations but the wonderful thing about “South Pacific” and its classic score is simply that. It is classic and will always be relevant. It is a multifaceted gem of sorts to be handed down from generation to generation and to bridge the generation gap. [Read more →]

November 14, 2008   Comments Off on Sunlight on the Sand AND Dames Aplenty

South Pacific: Dites-moi, pourquoi le spectacle a été magnifique

           Adapted from James Michener’s Tales of the South Pacific, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific showcased at the Vivian Beaumont at Lincoln Center on August 21, 2008 was nothing short of extravagant.
           Set in World War II on an island in the South Pacific, we meet Nellie Forbush, a young naïve nurse from Arkansas, who falls deeply in love with Emile de Becque, a French plantation owner. As the play progresses several revelations unfold about Emile’s mysterious past, and Nellie must battle an internal struggle, stuck at the crossroads to follow her heart, or her head. Meanwhile, Lt. Joseph Cable, a handsome Princeton grad, lands on the island with a secret mission. However, Luther Billis, a seabee, convinces Cable to travel to the exotic and forbidden island of Bali Ha’i. There he encounters Bloody Mary, a Tonkinese woman the equivalent of a modern day hustler.  Soon after, Lt. Cable unexpectedly falls head over heels for Bloody Mary’s innocent young daughter Liat. Like Nellie, Lt. Cable must also combat his own biases despite his deep love.

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November 9, 2008   Comments Off on South Pacific: Dites-moi, pourquoi le spectacle a été magnifique

(Just a Few) Tales of the South Pacific

Bartlett Sher’s revival of the 1950’s Rogers and Hammerstein musical “South Pacific” is more like a rebirth. The production illuminates the controversy that played such a big part in the original production. Unlike most revivals, “South Pacific” is not a foggy reenactment of an outdated show; it is brought to us in full color, with all the vivacity of the first showing.
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October 28, 2008   Comments Off on (Just a Few) Tales of the South Pacific



As Luther Billis and company declare what exactly is unlike anything else in the world while Nellie Forbush washes charming Emile de Becque out of her hair, it becomes obvious that spunk is something Rodgers’, Hammerstein’s, and Logan’s South Pacific delivers in spades.  Drawing from James A. Michener’s Tales of the South Pacific, Bartlett Sher’s endeavor is an enjoyable experience that fails to be anything more socially responsible. [Read more →]

October 18, 2008   Comments Off on NOT LACKING SOUL, BUT DIRECTION

South Pacific

It was over fifty years ago that James Michener wrote Tales of the South Pacific. It was fifty years ago that Michener’s play was first made into a movie. And now, Richard Pearce directs his own version of the critically acclaimed novel. Pearce’s musical adaptation of the book and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s play is impeccable. A wonderful cast, beautiful music, and a stunning setting, come together to create a great film portraying the hardships and tensions of life at war and away from home. [Read more →]

October 17, 2008   Comments Off on South Pacific

Some Enchanted Evening Indeed

If you want to experience romance forbidden by society’s morals and ideals, then South Pacific tells the story and draws you in it. The irresistible new revival of Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein’s South Pacific since 1949 brought to attention the theme of love and racial tolerance, a concept still relevant today. Held at the Vivian Beaumont Theater, South Pacific captivated its audience with its dreamy setting, blast-from-the-past costumes, catchy melodies, and adept cast. [Read more →]

October 16, 2008   Comments Off on Some Enchanted Evening Indeed