owing us all just how much the creators thought of themselves by 1949, my butt felt as if I'd been on a Southwest mini-jet for about 12 hours.
Still and granted, this revival is beautifully realized, especially the Intiman Theatre’s visionary director Bartlett Sher’s always crisp and incredibly striking signature staging that has in the past energized such theatrical treats as Light in the Piazza and Nickel and Dimed—and surely the well-heeled contributions of Michael Yeargam’s sweepingly versatile tropical set designs, Donald Holder’s sultry lighting, and Christopher Gattelli’s whimsical choreography are all top drawer.
There are also some excellent performances here, particularly Rod Gilfry, a mainstay for so long at the LA Opera, as transplanted French plantation owner Emile de Becque. In a role traditionally bowing to stereotypical proven choices, usually ringing of pure Ezio Pinza (who created the role a half-century ago on Broadway), Gilfry is a standout on his own, offering not only a memorable “Some Enchanted Evening” and a heartrending “This Nearly Was Mine,” but giving Ensign Nellie Forbush from Small Rock a real reason for falling in love with a more mature man even if he didn’t already live a lavish lifestyle to which she readily admits would be easy to become accustomed.
Carmen Cusack’s Nellie is a bit more conventional in its execution, but still she is fine, just not particularly inspired. Keala Settle is a wonderful Bloody Mary, even though her singing voice is not quite as rich and dynamic as some of her predecessors, and the lively supporting cast of GI Joes and Janes is uniformly excellent, with a particular shoutout to John Pinto Jr. as the smallest, most sincerely joyful, and continually “present” soldier in the entire squadron.
And as much as I have always desperately disliked South Pacific, I must admit Act Two did get me this time ‘round, thanks mainly to Anderson Davis as poor doomed Lt. Cable singing “You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught,” perhaps R & H's most important song—and an historic precursor to Mr. Rodgers’ best work post-Hammerstein, No Strings. It’s just sad we have to sit through people washing men out of their hair and suffering all the wincingly non-PC taunting of poor ol' Bloody Mary to get there.
South Pacific plays through July 17 at the Ahmanson Theatre, 135 S. N. Grand Av. in the LA Music Center; for tickets, call 213.972.4400 or visit www.centertheatregroup.org