& Saturday, March 11, 7PM
Friday, March 10, 8PM
Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall
South Pacific

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The Gulf Coast Symphony and co-producer Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre present Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Tony Award-winning musical, South Pacific, filled with some of their most beloved melodies — Bali Ha’i, I’m Gonna Wash that Man Right Outta My Hair, Some Enchanted Evening, and Younger than Springtime. South Pacific still delights audiences today with its powerful and uplifting message. Enjoy this classic American musical as its creators intended: staged with full symphony orchestra!

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Synopsis taken from Rodgers & Hammerstein:

On an island in the South Pacific during World War II, Nellie Forbush, a young Navy nurse from Little Rock, Arkansas, meets and falls in love with a gallant, middle-aged Frenchman, Emile de Becque. Emile is a planter and has lived on this particular island for twenty-five years. When he proposes to Nellie, he confesses that the reason he had to flee France was because he killed a man—the town bully whom no one else would stand up to. Nellie is able to accept this explanation and promises to consider Emile’s proposal of marriage…

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Synopsis taken from Rodgers & Hammerstein:

On an island in the South Pacific during World War II, Nellie Forbush, a young Navy nurse from Little Rock, Arkansas, meets and falls in love with a gallant, middle-aged Frenchman, Emile de Becque. Emile is a planter and has lived on this particular island for twenty-five years. When he proposes to Nellie, he confesses that the reason he had to flee France was because he killed a man—the town bully whom no one else would stand up to. Nellie is able to accept this explanation and promises to consider Emile’s proposal of marriage.

Also stationed on the island is a group of restless sailors, Seabees and marines who are obviously bored and sorely in need of female companionship. Souvenir collecting is about the only active pastime and has developed into a healthy competitive marketing war between Seabee Luther Billis, who has cornered the market in everything from grass skirts to shrunken heads, and Bloody Mary, the local Tonkinese dealer in such trophies.

Lieutenant Joseph Cable, a handsome young Marine, arrives with an assignment to persuade de Becque, who is familiar with the nearby islands, to accompany him on a dangerous secret mission. Their task would be to hide out on a Japanese-held island, watch for enemy ships and convey this information to their own pilots, who would then use this first-hand intelligence to attack the Japanese convoys. Nellie’s friendship with Emile is known to the Island Commander and she is asked to obtain all the information she can about the circumspect Frenchman.

Meanwhile, Luther Billis has a mission of his own—to get over to the mysterious and forbidden island of Bali Ha’i—and he convinces Lt. Cable to lead a pleasure-seeking expedition there. On the island, Bloody Mary introduces Cable to her beautiful daughter, Liat, and the Lieutenant falls in love with her.

Confused about her feelings for Emile, Nellie decides to play it safe and announces steadfastly “I’m gonna wash that man right outa my hair!” But Emile convinces her of his love, when he invites her to dinner at his home so that his friends may meet her, Nellie accepts and has a wonderful evening. Nellie is in love, and for the first time believes she and Emile could spend a wonderful lifetime together. Emile introduces her to two sweet native children, the off-spring of a Polynesian woman and a European. Nellie is charmed by the children but then, when Emile informs her that they are his, the prejudices and fear inherent in her mid-‘50s, small town upbringing rise to the surface and, panicked, she runs from Emile and from the future they had just planned.

At the same time Joe Cable, despite his deep love for Liat, is caught is a similar trap of his own prejudices and, though he loves her, decides he cannot marry her.

Both Cable and Emile are feeling the recklessness of lost love, and with that recklessness comes the willingness to take greater risks. They embark on their spy mission to a neighboring island where, for a few days, the plan works and they are able to transmit messages of Japanese naval maneuverings. Eventually they are discovered, however; Cable is killed, and a radio contact with Emile is cut off.

Faced with the sudden realization that she may have lost Emile, Nellie is able to put her fears and meaningless prejudices into perspective and realizes that her love for him and the things he stands for is paramount. She makes her way to his home and is feed lunch to his two children, whom she loves as her own, when Emile returns. He is weary, he is battle-worn, but he is alive, reunited with his children, and with Nellie.

History taken from Rodgers & Hammerstein:

The tale of SOUTH PACIFIC is as fascinating as the tales that inspired it. When director Joshua Logan suggested the idea of doing a musical based on James Michener’s collection of short stories, Tales of the South Pacific, to producer Leland Hayward, Hayward immediately saw its possibilities. Logan, who had already achieved great success in the post World War II theatre with his production of MISTER ROBERTS, saw a great dramatic potential in focusing on one corner of the vast world war that had just been fought. He conveyed his vision to longtime friend and collaborator, composer Richard Rodgers…

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History taken from Rodgers & Hammerstein:

The tale of SOUTH PACIFIC is as fascinating as the tales that inspired it. When director Joshua Logan suggested the idea of doing a musical based on James Michener’s collection of short stories, Tales of the South Pacific, to producer Leland Hayward, Hayward immediately saw its possibilities. Logan, who had already achieved great success in the post World War II theatre with his production of MISTER ROBERTS, saw a great dramatic potential in focusing on one corner of the vast world war that had just been fought. He conveyed his vision to longtime friend and collaborator, composer Richard Rodgers.

Rodgers though that several of the stories had strong dramatic potential, and his opinion was confirmed by his partner, librettist/lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II (who had also sought comments from his son William Hammerstein who had not only served as stage manager for Logan’s MISTER ROBERTS but had himself served with the U.S. Navy in the South Pacific during the war.) While Logan had originally intended to musicalize only one of the stories in Michener’s collection, “Fo’ Dolla,” it was Rodgers’ idea that they secure rights to the entire book to draw different characters and plot strands for their musical.

This turned out to be a wise move because, upon closer investigation, the romance at the heart of “Fo’ Dolla”—about a handsome American marine officer and the local island girl whose heart he breaks—was too close to Puccini’s MADAME BUTTERFLY to build an entire musical around (at least, such was the thinking in the days before MISS SAIGON.) So, while it was decided to make this the tragic subplot of the musical, another romance was needed to give SOUTH PACIFIC its dramatic structure. A story called “Our Heroine” seemed to be a better choice for a main plot and its unusual May-December romance was perfectly suited to Rodgers and Hammerstein’s penchant for writing to challenging situations. This story dealt with a romance between a middle-aged French planter, Emile de Becque, and Nellie Forbush, a young American nurse from Little Rock, Arkansas while also delving into the disturbing issue or racial intolerance and bigotry.

Casting the starring roles was comparatively easy. Ezio Pinza, the famed Metropolitan Opera basso, was anxious to appear in a Broadway musical and the part of Emile was perfectly suited for him. Mary Martin, who had impressed Rodgers and Hammerstein the year before with her fresh, down-home country appeal in the title role of the national tour of ANNIE GET YOUR GUN, was their first and only choice for Nellie. Mary Martin, however, needed some coaxing; she was dying to appear in the musical, but nervous about co-starring with a talent as large as Ezio Pinza. “What do you want,” she reportedly quipped. “Two basses?”

But one hearing of the score convinced her. Knowing who they wanted for their leads, Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote the score for them. Thus, the two leads are never in musical competition with each other; in fact, rarely to they even sing a duet with one another (a gentle reprise of “Some Enchanted Evening” is the only exception, while their “Twin Soliloquies” are more complementary than competing.) Emile, the romantic European, is given such luxuriant, rolling numbers as “Some Enchanted Evening,” and “This Nearly Was Mine” while Nellie from Little Rock gets the infectious, brassy Broadway sounds of “Honey Bun,” “I’m In Love with a Wonderful Guy,” and “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair.”

Although it had its share of problems, SOUTH PACIFIC enjoyed a comparatively smooth sail to Broadway via out of town tryouts in New Haven and Boston, Expectations were running high:  the director and the authors were at the pinnacles of their careers; the two stars each had fans in their own arenas and together promised to create a whole new following; and the subject matter hit home to an America still dealing with the giddy excitement and relief at having survived a second world war in less than half a century.

By the time it opened on Broadway SOUTH PACIFIC was already legendary, the major theatrical event of Broadway in its golden era. Astonishingly, this was one musical that not only managed to meet its hype, but actually to top it. “Magnificent,” cheered Brooks Atkison in the New York Times. “SOUTH PACIFIC is as lively, warm, fresh and beautiful as we had all hoped it would be.”

SOUTH PACIFIC received the 1950 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and for the first time the committee included a composer (Richard Rodgers) in the drama prize. It received eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical, a Grammy Award and countless other accolades. For years the second-longest running show in Broadway history (right behind OKLAHOMA!), it  has proven itself a classic in countless productions around the world and on the silver screen, where Rossan Brazzi and Mitzi Gaynor took us to the enchanted South Pacific.

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