Monday, June 16, 2008

'South Pacific' Still a Winner

Last night while watching the Tony Awards on television, I was delighted when Rodgers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific earned well-deserved recognition as the year’s Best Musical Revival. Because I’m one of the lucky people who saw the original musical on Broadway, this brought back some welcome memories for me.

Back in 1949, I was attending Barnard College in New York City. Oh, how I wanted to see South Pacific! Everyone raved about it. But getting tickets for the hottest show in town would not be easy. However, I heard “standing room only” admissions were available if one arrived at the box office before it opened. That’s why -- on a chilly fall morning -- I mustered enough courage to sneak out of my dorm at 3 a.m. and line up at the theater. Hooray! I managed to make the cut for one of those coveted tickets.

That evening, Mary Martin’s legendary voice thrilled me as it projected all the way to the back row where I stood in awe of her performance. I can imagine Martin’s disappointment when the Nellie Forbush movie role went to Mitzi Gaynor, but Gaynor also did a great job. Still, neither of these actresses showed as much pep and vitality in the bouncy “Honey Bun” number as my sister, who later surprised me with her musical talent in a local homage to this great Broadway show.

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