Lincoln Center Theatre at the Vivian Beaumont, NYC
One of the strongest revivals is the wonderful version of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s sunny and evocative South Pacific. Director Bartlett Sher deftly weaves the dual story of star-crossed lovers against the backdrop of World War II intrigue (Indeed, there are parallels to that other famous love story involving military intelligence, Casablanca, set in another steamy exotic locale).
The play opens on a lovely set, with sand dunes fading to Bali Hai in the m,isty distance. Nellie Forbush (played wonderfully by Laura Osnes), the Yank nurse stationed on the tropical isle soon encounters a romantic Frenchman. Emile de Becque (admirably assayed by Paulo Szot) has a mysterious back story, which slowly unspools over the course of the evening. In “Twin Soliloquies” the pair set up the wide gulf between them, which of course will be bridged before the final curtain.
Along the way, a happy cast of characters pushes the story along. Luther Billis is the entrepreneurial sailor who has an angle son everything. Lieutenant Cable flies in, with a secret mission. He soon falls for the daughter of local entrepreneur, setting out the secondary love story.
The stories intertwine, and the delight of the audience is the result.
Rodgers and Hammerstein’s music is glorious. “Nothing Like A Dame” rings true through the years, and “I’m Gonna wasjh That Man right outa my Hair” is fiendishly clever. Of course, the signature song “Some Enchanted Evening” is reprised throughout the production, and distills the theme of the show.
Danny Burstein as Billis is a perfect foil for the strait-laced military brass. Andrew Samonsky is given very little range in the role of cable; he is either pining for “My Girl Back Home” or the girl on “Bali Hai” while trying to convince de Becque to join him on his secret mission.
The set is tremendous. Whether a full size fighter plane, Billis’ Bath Club and Laundry, or de Becque’s plantation veranda, the set shifts easily and impressively.
Some of the notions in the book do not age well; the compliancy o fthe native women is a bit grating and the end of Act one taks too long in arriving.
But the production’s aces in the hole are the two leades. Osnes inhabits Enign Forbush’s role with a perky and infectious verve. Szot’s operatic training brings a fullness to his singing that may=tches his robust character.
South Pacific has aged gracefully, and remains in full flower as one of the great American musicals. For more info, visit www.lct.org