South Pacific: A Review Monday, Dec 21 2009 

When PJ and I planned our trip to New York this year, there was one show I absolutely wanted to see: the revival of South Pacific. So, this was the only show for which we bought advance tickets. I’m glad we saw it — it’s a wonderful interpretation of the musical — but we clearly did not need advance tickets: we sat in the balcony with only about 20 other people. The theater was probably less than two-thirds full. I assume the production won’t be sticking around much longer (unless the weekends really bring in the crowds — we saw it on Wednesday night).

As I’m sure everyone knows, this 1949 musical is about the war in the South Pacific in the early 1940s. It tells the story of Ensign Nellie Forbush, a girl from Little Rock, who meets Emile de Becque while stationed on an island. The two instantly fall in love when they see each other across a crowded room; the play is about what happens when they begin to learn a little more about each other’s lives and beliefs. The secondary plot is about a hotshot lieutenant, Joe Cable, who sees an opportunity to turn the tide of the war. His plans are complicated by Nellie and Emile’s relationship and his own attraction for a native islander. Both couples have to confront the Americans’ racism to varying degrees of success. The play won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1950.

I’d never seen a live production of the play before. I had seen the 1958 film, which I have mixed feelings about. I like the songs and message, but the movie’s direction is too much for its own good. In particular, the film is famous for its mood coloring, which never appealed to me.

My parents raised my sister and me on old movies, and this one was probably one of the racier ones that we were allowed to watch. I was totally crushing on John Kerr, and I loved the song “Bali Hai” beyond all reason. I now think it resonated with my adolescent queer yearning for love and unconscious knowledge that it would have to be found elsewhere than in my parents’ community.

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Finian’s Rainbow: A Review Monday, Dec 21 2009 

Last week, PJ and I saw four plays while we were in New York City: Finian’s Rainbow, South Pacific, The Understudy, and God of Carnage. None of them knocked our socks off, but I enjoyed the musicals a lot and we were both pleasantly surprised by The Understudy.

We arrived in New York on Tuesday. We didn’t buy advance tickets in case our flight was delayed or something like that happened. SO, after we checked into our hotel we went to the TKTS booth for discount tickets. We did this last year and were really happy with the tickets we got for In the Heights.

Also like last year, we had nothing in mind for the Tuesday night show. We just knew we wanted to see a musical. If there had been tickets for it, we probably would have seen A Little Night Music starring Catherine Zeta-Jones and Angela Lansbury, but that wasn’t available. One of the options PJ suggested was Finian’s Rainbow, which we knew almost nothing about. The only thing we knew was, as PJ pointed out, Cheyenne Jackson was in it. That seemed more tempting to me than the other alternative PJ suggested, Hair. I intend to write more about Mr. Jackson in another blog later this week, so I’ll save some of my thoughts about him for that. For this post, I’ll just start by saying that this was our chance to see him in person, and I was going to take it unless PJ insisted on Hair. He didn’t.

So, we got out tickets for Finian’s Rainbow. Overall, it’s kind of lightweight even for a musical. It originally ran in 1947. The plot revolves around Finian, an Irishman who moves from Ireland to the mythical state of Missitucky with his daughter, Sharon. Sharon soon catches the eye of Woody, who is leading an effort to combat the racist policies of Senator Rawlins. We soon learn that Finian has stolen a pot of gold from a leprechaun, Og, who wants his gold back. Comic mayhem ensues.

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