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The 50th Anniversary South Pacific Concert


Tickets are gone for the 8 PM April 8 South Pacific symposium-with-music, "Some Enchanted Evening," at Symphony Space in New York City. The event, which includes perspective by Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization president Theodore S. Chapin and members of the original company, comes one day after the April 7 50th anniversary of the Broadway musical's opening.

Hosted by Symphony Space co-founder and artistic director Isaiah Sheffer, "Some Enchanted Evening" includes performances by David Campbell (singing Lt. Cable), Liz Callaway (singing Nellie) and George Hearn (singing Emile de Becque).

The 800 or so ticketholders will hear backstage recollections by original cast members of the 1949-54 run who were reunited April 7 in New York City. Betta St. John (the original Liat) and BarBara Luna (the original Ngana, who sang "Dites Moi") are expected to appear, along with former ensemble members Don Fellows, Richard Eastham and Rosalynd Lowe Mass.

"Symposium" is too stuffy a word for the evening, according to R&H's Bert Fink. "Celebration" is more appropriate, he said, particularly since the evening will be punctuated by live performances by Broadway's Hearn (La Cage aux folles, Sunset Boulevard) and Callaway (Baby) and Australian cabaret star Campbell.

Fink confirmed April 8 that several South Pacific "trunk" songs (unused numbers, perhaps "My Girl Back Home," "Loneliness of Evening" or "Suddenly Lucky") will be sung by Campbell.

Also featured will be rarely-seen 1954 film footage of original stars Mary Martin and Ezio Pinza singing about 10 minutes of scenes from the show. Not publicly seen since its original broadcast (a General Foods sponsored tribute to R&H, run on all networks), the 16mm film footage includes a part of "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair," a reprise of "Some Enchanted Evening" with both stars and the entire song and dance of Martin performing "A Wonderful Guy."

Fink said the footage was shot concurrent to the 1949-54 run, so the staging is "fresh" and "absolutely" based on the original. That footage is also shown at the Museum of the City of New York's new South Pacific exhibit, "Younger Than Springtime," in a laser-disc format.

Several of the reunited cast members were war veterans, and women from the cast entertained in the war effort. "They will evoke the immediate post-war era and, I think, quite movingly, they all have stories about the war itself," said Fink.

"Their stories are amazing," Fink said. "Many of the original cast veterans are also World War II veterans, having actively served in both the European and Pacific theatres. One member of the ensemble stormed Omaha Beach at Normandy; another was a P.O.W. under the Nazis."

Fink pointed out how remarkable it was that five years after V-J Day, some of them "were appearing in the biggest musical of the post-war era, about the very war they had just survived!"

South Pacific, drawn from four of James Michener's stories in the collection, "Tales of the South Pacific," was considered groundbreaking for the commingling of an exotic wartime locale, its romantic plot and score and its serious exploration of racial bigotry, summed up in the Hammerstein lyric, "You've Got to be Carefully Taught." That song is generally thought to be the reason the musical captured the Pulitzer Prize.

The reunion was spearheaded by ensemble members Bill Thunhurst and Roz Lowe Mass, in association with The Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization, the privately-held partnership that protects and promotes the R&H catalog.

Festivities began 7:30 PM April 6 at the Warwick Hotel, with a private cocktail reception for the former cast members.

Although the stars and featured players -- Mary Martin, Ezio Pinza, Juanita Hall, William Tabbert, Myron McCormick -- are all gone now, 30 original cast members and their spouses attended a noon April 7 dedication of the South Pacific exhibit, "Younger Than Springtime," as part of the Museum of the City of New York's larger "Broadway!" exhibit.

"Younger Than Springtime" will run at least a year and feature historical information and rare glimpses into the making of the show. The exhibit includes costume and set design sketches, posters and Playbills, a video kiosk with rare TV footage of Mary Martin and Ezio Pinza, Tony Awards, Martin's oversize "Honey Bun" sailor suit, and more.

The Museum of the City of New York is at 1220 Fifth Ave at 103rd St. Call (212) 534-1672 for information.

-- By Kenneth Jones

Gregg's Review

Hi all,

What a night! The crowd gathered out front before the doors opened was a who's who of the cabaret world ~ audience members, not necessarily performers, although I did site Mr. Steve Ross, one of the GIANTS of cabaret. And then, what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a wild colorful South Pacific blowsy shirt and in it Mr. David Campbell, heir apparent to the throne! After that 'infamous blue suit' at the MAC Awards, this 'costume' seemed so much in the character of the evening.

However, when David walked onstage in a handsome black suit, white shirt and black tie to a roar from the audience, I knew he had the whole world in his hands. Talk about some enchanted evening!

This 50th anniversary celebration of the opening of "South Pacific" was a well put together program featuring 5 of the surviving original leading cast and about 25 others cast members who were also present.

After a short introduction and a nice film clip of Mary Martin and Ezio Pinza from a 1949 television show (what a wonderful relic), David was introduced and came out to sing a selection of deleted songs, one of which was "Suddenly" which utilized music eventually used in the "King & I" ("Getting to Know You" with completely different lyrics!) (I don't know the name of the first song and can't read my scribbling in the dark notes). Needless to say, the audience, and 5 cast members on stage, were speechless and attentive as all get-out to hear this familiar music and unfamiliar lyrics. Perhaps Sue, who was also there, will remember more of this, but suffice it to say, the audience ate it up and laughed away at the use of this music from King & I in this show South Pacific!

Liz Callaway (recently of Cats and also from Broadway casts of Miss Saigon, Baby (where she earned a Tony nomination) and Merrily We Roll Along, sang "Cock-eyed Optimist" and along with George Hearn (who won a Tony for La Cage aux Folles and also for Sunset Boulevard & is also remembered for Follies in Concert and also Sweeney Todd) sang the wonderful "Twin Sililoquy". George sang "This Nearly Was Mine" (beautifully) and "Some Enchanted Evening" (wistfully).

But we're here to discuss David's participation: his "Younger Than Springtime" began slowly and confidently and all of a sudden he connected and tore into it with such wonderful soaring clarion sounds that everyone was swept into his arms. What an amazing man he is; anyone who ever had any doubts as to David's stardom can rest assured that he has earned every acolade that has ever been written about him. The magic that is this song was conveyed with all his heart and soul. For those of us lucky enough to have heard him, we shall always remember this peformance when we hear this song again.

David was accompanied by Alex Rybeck who himself is a composer, arranger and pianist whose songs & arrangements have been sung by Michael Feinstein, Karen Mason, the McGuire Sisters and has been the musical director for Ann Hampton Callaway (yes, Liz' sister), Jeff Harnar, and many others. He did a beautiful job for David.

I met David very briefly as he was entering the hall and he said "Nice to see you again" so I guess he remembered me from Monday night and those "meetings" outside Town Hall at the Cabaret Convention. I tried to hook up with him after the show, but think he ducked out, probably to get ready for his flight to Florida for his next gig.

As a sidebar to our Aussie friends: I met another Egroup reader (sorry, didn't get him name: are you reading this?) who said he had recently seen yet another "invader" from the Sydney Cabaret Convention Maree Johnson who is appearing again at Eighty Eights (accompanied by our friend Alex Rybeck). As he was raving to us about her, she walked past us! I may have seen her last fall at the NYC Cabaret Convention, but don't recollect for certain. Apparently she is well-known there from "Phantom", West Side Story" and My Fair Lady as well the concert Follies. Must check her out, because this guy raved about her.

Be curious to hear Susan's take on the concert. Suffice it to say I shall remember this night fondly for a very very, long time. No one wanted to leave the premises after it was over. The audience was asked to join in singing "Nothing Like a Dame" "Cock-eyed Optimist" and "Some Enchanted Evening" at the end as we stood aafter the ovation and admired all the cast gathered on the stage. After the house lights came up and many walked out of the hall, I came back into the auditorium and the stage was still filled with cast members and well-wishers and a recording was playing of the original cast as everyone smiled and sang along. Enchanted, indeed!

* Gregg *