ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY

TL ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY (11)

South Pacific

On this day in 1958, the soundtrack album for the musical, “South Pacific” hit #1 and stayed there for 31 weeks!

The production won ten Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Score and Best Libretto, and it is the only musical production to win Tony Awards in all four acting categories. Its original cast album was the bestselling record of the 1940s, and other recordings of the show have also been popular. The show has enjoyed many successful revivals and tours, spawning a 1958 film and television adaptations.

There are a few things that put me in a better mood automatically.  Of course, my faith is at the top of the list, but running a close second is my love of show tunes!  I not only own the DVD of the movie, but I also have the soundtrack and the (well used) music book!

What is your favorite song from “South Pacific”?  Mine is “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair”. 

Does your family sing along when you’re watching musicals?  That was something my parents encouraged as I grew up – and to this day I sing along!

The story for Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “South Pacific” is drawn from a Pulitzer-Prize-winning novel by James A. Michener called “Tales of the South Pacific”, which dealt largely with the issue of racism.

Some of the wonderful songs on the soundtrack include:

  • SOME ENCHANTED EVENING
  • I’M GONNA WASH THAT MAN RIGHT OUTTA MY HAIR
  • HAPPY TALK
  • BALI HA’I
  • YOUNGER THAN SPRINGTIME
  • I’M IN LOVE WITH A WONDERFUL GUY

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The musical opens on a South Pacific island, during World War II, where a naïve young Navy nurse from Arkansas becomes romantically involved with Emile de Becque, a French plantation owner. In spite of the dangers of the ongoing war, Nellie sings to Emile that she is “A Cockeyed Optimist.” And in “Some Enchanted Evening,” Emile recalls fondly their first meeting at an officer’s club dinner. At the same time, the American sailors are growing restless and bored without and combat to keep them active or women to entertain them in their downtime (“There is Nothin’ Like a Dame”). One sailor, Luther Billis, hatches a plan to travel to Bali Ha’i, a nearby island where the French plantation owners are believed to have hidden their women. Meanwhile, a U.S. marine, Lieutenant Joe Cable, arrives on the island undercover on a dangerous spy mission crucial to the outcome of the war. A middle-aged grass skirt seller nicknamed “Bloody Mary,” one of the few women on the island, takes an immediate interest in Cable.

Nellie, on the other hand, has been reconsidering her relationship with Emile and decides to break up with him (“I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair”). However, when she bumps in to him unexpectedly, she realizes she can’t dump him because she’s in love with him. Accepting an invitation to meet all of his friends and associates, she sings “I’m In Love With a Wonderful Guy.” About this time, Cable, who needs to run reconnaissance on a nearby Japanese-held island, approaches Emile for help, but the plantation owner refuses and Cable is told to go on leave until he is able to continue his mission. With nothing else to do, Cable allows Billis to convince him to travel to Bali Ha’i. On the island, Bloody Mary introduces Cable to a young Tonkinese girl, Liat, who turns out to be her daughter. She had been planning a love match, and it turns out to be a successful one as Cable and Liat quickly fall in love. Meanwhile, Emile and Nellie have become engaged, but when she learns that Emile has children with a dark-skinned Polynesian woman, Nellie’s racial prejudice surfaces.

As Act II opens, the relationship between Liat and Cable is growing more serious, but like Nellie, Cable exhibits some signs of racism, fearing what his friends and family will think if he marries a dark-skinned woman. When he finally admits that he won’t marry a Vietnamese girl, Bloody Mary is furious and drags her distraught daughter away, swearing that she will marry her off to some other man. Although somewhat aware and ashamed of their bigotry, both Cable and Nellie seem prisoners to their social conditioning and believe that they have no real choice in the matter.

Depressed over his rejected proposal, Emile offers to join Cable on his spy mission behind Japanese lines. Confronted by the plantation owner about his prejudices, Cable admits that it’s just how he was raised (“Carefully Taught”). The mission is successful, and the intelligence received results in an American victory and the destruction of Japanese convoys, but Cable is killed in the ensuing battle. Touched by Liat’s grief when she learns of her lover’s death, Nellie, who imagines that Emile has also died, decides to put aside her prejudice and at least learn to love Emile’s children if she can’t have their father. When Emile unexpectedly returns home, Nellie is overjoyed and agrees to marry.

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The great musicals of the 1950’s are just another happy memory I have of my family and I having fun together – singing!  🙂

 

 

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