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South Pacific

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The Writing of South Pacific

Noel KatzCommentary and writing tips by Noel Katz

In most musicals, the romantic outcome really isn't in doubt. Boy meets girl, and it's a safe bet boy will end up with girl. In South Pacific, Rodgers and Hammerstein (along with Joshua Logan) create considerable dramatic tension. The obstacles the romantic couples go through are so nettlesome, we're never confident of the conclusion.

Like the musical Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote immediately after, The King and I, South Pacific deals with cross-cultural communication, and ingrained (or "carefully taught") prejudice is the greatest obstacle of them all. The war with Japan has hurtled the American servicemen to distant and exotic shores. We're instantly fascinated by the way they relate to the "locals," particularly, Bloody Mary. The sailors compare her skin to DiMaggio's glove, not without affection, but could any of them build a workable marriage with her beautiful daughter?

Hammerstein knew that musical theatre fans will always root for true love to prevail, and the fact that this daughter speaks not a word of English is the least of the obstacles. Cagily, the American characters come from places known for their prejudice: Lt. Cable is from haughty Philadelphia; Nellie is from Little Rock, Arkansas. The course of their romances with exotic and accented people can't possibly run smooth.

Nellie appeals to us because of her never-cynical faith in things. She describes herself as a cock-eyed optimist, believes a little shampoo can wash man troubles away, and brilliantly exults in the love of a wonderful guy. But discovering Emile has children from a previous relationship with a now-dead Polynesian woman is harder for her to accept than the fact Emile once killed a man in his native France.

The previous Rodgers and Hammerstein hits also featured two couples - a primary one and a secondary comic one. I like South Pacific a little less because both couples are so serious, and that native girl doesn't even speak. The comic relief provided by Bloody Mary and a sailor named Luther is essential. The authors find humor against the backdrop of war. And, as usual, Hammerstein doesn't shy away from the sexual side of things. Take a good look at "There Is Nothing Like a Dame" and observe how, with no embarrassment, it mines comedy out of the sailors' state of unrequited lust.

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DVD

South Pacific DVDSouth Pacific (DVD) from Amazon.com Original 1958 film version starring Mitzi Gaynor. DVD special features include the overture, intermission, and exit music as well as a Movietone News Trailer.

 

South Pacific TVRodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific (DVD) from Amazon.com 2001 Television version starring Glenn Close and Harry Connick Jr. DVD special features incldue: deleted scenes and a behind the scenes documentary.

South Pacific Concert DVDSouth Pacific in Concert from Carnegie Hall (DVD) from Amazon.com 2006 televised concert starring Reba McEntire, Brian Stokes Mitchell, and Alec Baldwin.

Cast Recordings

South Pacific Original CastSouth Pacific (Original 1949 Broadway Cast) from Amazon.com Starring Mary Martin and Ezio Pinza. Songs incldue: Overture, Dites-moi, A Cockeyed Optimist, Twin Soliloquies, Some Enchanted Evening, Bloody Mary, There Is Nothin' like A Dame, Bali Ha'i, I'm Gonna Wash that Man right outa My Hair, A Wonderful Guy, Younger than Springtime, Happy Talk, Honey Bun, You've Got to be Carefully Taught, This Nearly Was Mine, Finale: Dites-moi (reprise), Loneliness of Evening, My Girl Back Home, Bali-Ha'i, and South Pacific: Symphonic Scenario for Concert Orchestra

South Pacific SoundtrackSouth Pacific (1958 Film Soundtrack) from Amazon.comRemastered reissue of the original soundtrack recording. Songs include: South Pacific Overture, Dites-Moi, Cock-Eyed Optimist, Twin Soliloquies/Some Enchanted Evening, Bloody Mary, My Girl Back Home, There Is Nothin' Like A Dame, Bali Ha'i, I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair, I'm In Love With A Wonderful Guy, Younger Than Springtime, Happy Talk, Honey Bun, Carefully Taught, This Nearly Was Mine, and Finale

South Pacific Concert CastSouth Pacific in Concert from Carnegie Hall from Amazon.com This recording of the 2006 concert includes much of the dialogue as well. Songs include: Overture, Dites-Moi / Oh, and what's that flower over there?, A Cock-Eyed Optimist, So when you joined the Navy..., Twin Soliloquies, One waits so long for what is good, Some Enchanted Evening, Dites-Moi (Reprise), Bloody Mary, Say, is that a boar's tooth bracelet on your wrist?, There Is Nothin' Like A Dame, Ah, hello... you make trouble for me?, Bali Ha'i, Bali H'ai (Reprise), So tell us, Nellie, what did old Ironbelly want?, I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair, Hello, is that a new American song?, Some Enchanted Evening (Reprise), Will you come to my party Friday?, A Wonderful Guy, What should I do, Captain? / Bali H'ai (Reprise), You wait, Lootellan..., Younger Than Springtime & Bali H'ai (Reprise), A Wonderful Guy (Reprise), This Is How It Feels & A Cock-Eyed Optimist (Reprise), Finale Act 1 - Some Enchanted Evening (Reprise), Entr'acte, Happy Talk, It is my great pleasure to bring you our skipper..., Honey Bun, You've Got To Be Carefully Taught, This Nearly Was Mine, Well, de Beque, I take off pretty soon for Marie Louise..., Some Enchanted Evening (Reprise), Alright, Let's Start Those Trucks... / Honey Bun (Reprise), and Finale Act 2 - Dites-Moi (Reprise)

Sheet Music

"Some Enchanged Evening" from Musicnotes.com Instant digital download sheet music.

"I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair" from Musicnotes.com Instant digital download sheet music.

"This Nearly Was Mine" from Musicnotes.com Instant digital download sheet music.

"Younger Than Springtime" from Musicnotes.com Instant digital download sheet music.

"Honey Bun" from Musicnotes.com Instant digital download sheet music.

"Bali Ha'i" from Musicnotes.com Instant digital download sheet music.

"There Is Nothin' Like A Dame" from Musicnotes.com Instant digital download sheet music.

"You've Got To Be Carefully Taught" from Musicnotes.com Instant digital download sheet music.

"Happy Talk" from Musicnotes.com Instant digital download sheet music.

"Bloody Mary" from Musicnotes.com Instant digital download sheet music.

"Twin Soliloquies (This Is How It Feels)" from Musicnotes.com Instant digital download sheet music.

"Dites-Moi (Tell Me Why)" from Musicnotes.com Instant digital download sheet music.

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