Thursday, June 25, 2009
I'm a big, ol' musical queen. And I've seen a ton of big, ol' musicals over the years. I was even IN a few of them, in college and community theaters, along the way. I'd always thought I'd seen 'em all, and knew 'em all.
Well, I'm here to tell ya, I didn't know jack-shit.
I saw "South Pacific" at Lincoln Center on Tuesday night, and I'm here to tell you, it is the best American musical play, ever.
It beautifully captures the mood of a robust, vigorous nation at war, a country flexing both it's impressive muscles and it's small-town naivete. Yes, it also has bald-faced capitalism (Billis), bald-faced racism (Lt. Cable and Nellie Forbush), worldy sophistication (de Beque) and altruistic heroism (Cable and de Beque).
This show is loaded. Mostly with America, warts and all, with a smattering of ex-patriate France, just the way we all were in the 40's.
The overture starts, as many B'way overtures do these days, small and tinny, sounding more like it's being played on a synthesizer across the street at Juilliard, until... the music builds and builds to the crescendo in the midst of the "Bali Hai" section when, suddenly, like a giant wave pulling back from the shore, the entire stage floor swiftly retracts upstage to reveal an entire Broadway orchestra, the way B'way orchestras used to be ... BIG. 25 or 30 seats, at least. Only then did I really appreciate the lushness of the Robert Russell Bennett orchestrations and the true value of Rogers' brilliant score.
I'm sorry for waxing ecstatic over it, but I was just blown away by it. The cast is great, not a miscue among them. The sets and costumes are perfect and not overdone.
If you see nothing else on Broadway, this year, or ever, by all means go see "South Pacific" at Lincoln Center.