Thursday 30 July 2015

Rodgers & Hammerstein's "South Pacific"

"I'm gonna wash that man right outta my hair
I'm gonna wash that man right outta my hair
I'm gonna wash that man right outta my hair
And send him on his way."

James Michener found himself on an island in the South Pacific in 1944 where the Americans were trying to dislodge the Japanese from a nearby island.  Michener, a writer, was assigned the task of recording the history of the American Navy in the Pacific on an old battered typewriter.  He became fascinated with the local people and culture and started composing one of nineteen tales about them. It was published as Tales of the South Pacific in 1947.  

Rodgers & Hammerstein got a hold of the book and wrote a musical, based on two of the 19 stories.  The first "Our Heroine", featured an American nurse who falls in love with a French plantation owner; she struggles to accept his mixed race children,however.  The second, "Fo' Dolla" is based on a U.S. Lieutenant who falls in love with a Tonkinese woman whose mother begs him to marry her.  However, he is reluctant to, worried about what his family and Philadelphia society might think of an interracial marriage.  

The musical, which premiered on Broadway in 1949, spawned such hits as "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair", "some Enchanted Evening" and "There is Nothing Like a Dame".  South Pacific starred Ezio Pinza and Mary Martin.  Running for a total of 1925 performances, it received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1950.  

Emile and Nellie grasp hands as Emile's two children look on.

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