I love the theatre and have been attending Broadway plays for decades—I’m partial to musicals—and can name a string of favorites; but last weekend I was “blown away,” as a certain generation might phrase it, during a performance of “South Pacific” at the Lincoln Center Theatre. (It so happens that 2009 marks the 60th anniversary of the show’s stage debut with Mary Martin and Ezio Pinza. The current presentation is—surprise—the first Broadway revival.)
Based on James Michener’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book Tales of the South Pacific, this production is electrifying in every sense. Indeed, as Ben Brantley noted in The New York Times shortly after its opening, there is a palpable “chemistry between the show [and its actors] and the audience.” No wonder it garnered seven Tony awards last year, including one for best actor (Paulo Szot, as Emile de Becque), best director (Bartlett Sher) and best musical revival. The role of Ensign Nellie Forbush, played until recently by Kelli O’Hara, who is on maternity leave, is now owned by the brilliant and buoyant Laura Osnes. The Rodgers & Hammerstein unforgettable and sublime score, the classic story, the sustained energy of every performer (a cast of 40), the voices—Oh, God, the voices—lift you from your seat (and I was in the front row of the orchestra!) and transport you to a paradise island during wartime.
I haven’t stopped talking about this show for days and am encouraging friends and neighbors to see it for themselves. There are not many shows we can describe as perfect, and I’ve been known to pick a few nits, but this is one. Simply put, it is the best theatrical experience I’ve ever had. If you can get to New York, “South Pacific” ought to be on your must-see list. You’re guaranteed Some Enchanted Evening.
Patricia A. Kossmann