Tuesday, June 2, 2009
South Pacific (1949)
“South Pacific” opened on Broadway on April 7, 1949. Based off of James A. Michener’s novel Tales of the South Pacific, the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical premiered at New York’s Majestic Theatre. Characters in “South Pacific” include Nellie (a navy nurse), Emile de Becque (a plantation owner), Joe Cable (a U.S. marine), and Liat (a Tonkinese girl) who develop meaningful relationships with one another as the play progresses. Romantic relationships form between Nellie and Emile as Cable and Liat grow closer; however they are hindered by racial prejudices and social struggles. Despite the struggles presented to the audience in “South Pacific,” love prevails over the evils of racism, society, and war, as Liat grieves over Cable’s death, and Nellie decides to embrace Emile’s dark-skinned children. When Emile, who Nellie believed to be dead, returns home, Nellie agrees to marry him and accept a life that may be filled with challenges in exchange for a promise of love and security. Although the play takes place during World War II and deals with controversial topics such as racism and prejudice, the romance and musical numbers, such as “Some Enchanted Evening,” and “I’m in Love with a Wonderful City,” ultimately prevent “South Pacific” from being a dreary play, and allow the show to convince readers that out of war, something great can emerge.