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And this is me AFTER I saw South Pacific

2.18.2010

In an ideal world, we would take the songs of South Pacifc, the good ones, and place them in a revue. (Thank you, people of 1993.) Because as musical plots and love stories go, it's no surprise this was the first (U.S.) revival since the show's original run. I'm not sure how closely this production was kept true to the first, but it felt way too sincere for such a shallow story. I needed a lot more tongue-in-cheek camp for this kind of content. And it looked like it was staged in a Tommy Bahama store. And the actress playing Liat looked 12, which does not help an already skeezy 'love' story.

But let me tell you what I liked. I liked Luther Billis, and "Nothing Like A Dame" was by far the favorite song of the night. Lt. Cable was believable, a solid singer, and his "Carefully Taught" was stirring. Emile was...loud. And Nellie was funny, but mostly silly, but not in a way that endeared me to her. Bloody Mary was a mixed bag. Great voice, sometimes funny delivery, but overall the character is offensive.

The main theme of the musical seems to be in praise of youth. Emile in "Twin Soliloquies": this is what I've longed for, someone young and smiling; Lt. Cable's "Younger Than Springtime" (self-explanatory), and the cruel send-up of Bloody Mary with her skin as tender as 'DiMaggio's glove.' Get it? Cause she's OLD.

Oops--what I liked...what I liked... I liked the 1940s swimsuits. I liked the classic ding-dong I ate at intermission. I think that about sums up what I liked. Let's get into it, shall we?

So, Emile. You're ok with telling Nellie right off that you killed a man as you hold up your hands in front of her and say, "with my own hands" (!). Is that supposed to be sexy? No. No, no, no. But you feel like keeping the fact that you have two kids from a former marriage with a now-dead (who knows how?) Polynesian woman. But then you're surprised when you finally tell Nellie about them, and she's upset? YOU kept them from her! Clearly you've got your own issues of shame!

And then you sing "This Nearly Was Mine" when she leaves you:

One dream in my heart,
One love to be livin' for,
One love to be livin' for
This nearly was mine.

One girl for my dream,
One partner in paradise,
This promise of paradise
This nearly was mine.

Ok...so what exactly do you love about Nellie? The fact that she was a) a girl, and b) she was on the island, and c) she loved you? This is basically you just bitching that you're alone, not that you missed out on someone awesome. And what about your Polynesian wife? She wasn't the partner you were dreaming of? Oh, and when Nellie leaves you, you decide you're ready to go risk your life for a suicide mission, because what have you got to lose? I can think of two people: YOUR CHILDREN. Nellie even says she went to your house and yours kids didn't know where you were. Did you even say goodbye to them before you went off to die? Sir, you're rich and have a pretty accent, but that's about all you've got going for you.

But even worse offenders? Bloody Mary and Lt. Cable. Bloody Mary just throws her daughter at him, he takes her, and after we presume they have sex, the sweet pillow talk is him saying, "You're just a kid!" Nice. Way to actually look at someone before you take off their clothes and have your way with them, Mr. I'm-Entitled! And then Bloody Mary starts throwing money at him so he'll marry Liat. And why, pray tell does he love Liat? Because she's uber-submissive, spending most of the musical dancing for him or kneeling between his legs? How romantic. Give me Miss Saigon any day over this tripe.

The whole second Act was a snooze-fest, with our second reprise of "Some Enchanted Evening" (way to overdo it), and an immediate expectation to be interested and concerned about the 'serious' side of war when we've just been dished up a ton of cheesy fluff. I do think it's possible to make musicals that take place during times of heartache and hardship that can hold in both hands the darkness and the light (Cabaret, The Sound of Music, Fiddler on the Roof, Miss Saigon, Les Miserables, Chess, Evita, and many, many others), but South Pacific, in my opinion, isn't one of them. Its attempt to 'take on' racism couldn't get off the ground because of its own stereotypes.

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