Friday, September 24, 2010

My Most Memorable Theatre Experiences: #9 South Pacific (2008 Revival)

Like most theatre fans, I grew up watching the Rogers and Hammerstein musicals on video. I started with The Sound of Music and a bit later I fell in love with Carousel, and then South Pacific. I loved the romance of these shows and the glorious, sweeping scores. When I began to study vocal performance, I gravitated toward the R&H songs as they fit wonderfully into my soprano voice. They are still among my favorite repertory pieces today. Unfortunately for me, most contemporary musicals are written for belters so when I knew that Lincoln Center Theatre was reviving South Pacific, I jumped at the chance to see it. I had seen a charming little community theatre production of South Pacific in Walla Walla, WA a few years before and fell in love with the score and staging, but what I saw and experienced at Lincoln Center blew me away. I had listened to the cast recording before I saw the show and fell in love with the voice of Kelli O'Hara. She has a glorious soprano and while she mixes down into her chest voice, she is definitely not a power belter, and she became a singer that I could relate to. Unfortunately when I saw the performance Miss O'Hara was on maternity leave, but Laura Osnes was perfectly lovely in the role of Nellie Forbush and Paulo Szot was, and I do not use this word lightly, a revelation in the role of Emile de Becque.

Now while I have always said I'm an old soul, contrary to popular belief I was not around in 1949 for the original Broadway production of South Pacific. But you could have convinced me otherwise as the opening notes of the overture transported me to the 1940s when full orchestras and romance trumped rock scores and electronic music. When the stage retracted from the thrust to reveal the orchestra as they played excerpts from Bali Hai and Some Enchanted Evening, the water works began and continued throughout the opening sequence (did I mention I love a good cry at the theatre). The opening sequence of Cockeyed Optimist, Twin Soliloquies, and Some Enchanted Evening was enrapturing. Everything about the production was captivating, from the wonderful performances by Danny Burstein as Luther Billis and Loretta Ables Sayre as Bloody Mary and picture perfect direction of Bartlett Sher, to the visually stunning scenic and lighting designs. One of the most unique aspects of this experience, for me, was the fact that I was one of the youngest people in the audience of the Vivian Beaumont theatre that night. It felt so wonderful to be in the presence of a more mature generation that may indeed have seen the original production with Mary Martin and Ezio Pinza, and above all, that truly maintained respect for the theatre as a venerated art form, and not simply as entertainment. I guess what really touched me the most about this production of South Pacific was the realization that classical musical theatre and timeless talents like Kelli O'Hara and Paulo Szot still have a place on The Great White Way.

No comments:

Post a Comment