July 20, 2019   12:23am
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A shocking evening — at South Pacific

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Last night I went to see the truly wonderful Lincoln Center production of “South Pacific”.

Honestly, it was an out-of-town friend thing, and I wasn’t entirely enthusiastic about going to see a show that I knew as a movie from my childhood — even if it was one that had caused me to dance endlessly in front of my full-length bedroom mirror, sing every lyric and hum every note without mistakes and, of course, sigh deeply as a romantic young girl. Plus, least you forget, the show’s star character Ensign Nellie Forbush was from Little Rock, A-R-K, my very own hometown.

So … lights down … music begins … and as I’m carried away by the tremendously entertaining stars, staging (and my own sentiment), I whisper to my friend, “You know, I can’t really remember exactly what this show is about or what happens in the end.” And, while a few years younger than me and from the northeast, neither did she. And neither did another girlfriend, who originally hailed from Oklahoma, that I ran into during the break.

We were collectively shocked when we found out.

Opening on Broadway during 1949, “South Pacific” ran for five years and won a Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1950. The film version came out during 1958. It was an American megahit … yet … that’s what the song “You’ve Got to be Carefully Taught” was about?” That’s what the main theme of the show was about? Rodgers & Hammerstein were that far ahead in their thinking for those times. And we never even discussed it as anything but a wonderful musical in my school and in my warm “Leave it to Beaver” “Father Knows Best”  home.

I marvel at how unconscious we all were … how brave it was to conceive of this show when they did … and, good grief, duh!, I mean did most white people in this country at that time miss that the show wasn’t about World War II at all? 

Or did everybody just overlook it?

If you have a chance, go see this show! It’s an amazement.

Harriett 

PS:  One more thing — The opening song “Cockeyed Optimist” was a grateful reminder that there were other times we survived when everyone said the world was falling apart.



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