Tuesday, February 2, 2010

South Pacific entertaining, but falls way short of the hype

The much Bali Ha'i'd -- er, ballyhooed -- Lincoln Center Theater production of South Pacific sailed into the 5th Avenue Theatre last week. While a perfectly entertaining show, it left Weisenheimer thinking, "THIS is what Bart Sher has been doing that has the Big Apple all ga-ga?"

It's hard to go terribly wrong with South Pacific. The Rodgers and Hammerstein classic is chock full of great tunes that everyone knows even if they don't know what they're from: "Some Enchanted Evening" (performed about 20 times), "A Wonderful Guy," "Bali Ha'i," "Happy Talk," and "Honey Bun" are marvelous familiar songs. The best numbers of the show were two others, the Seabees' lusty rendition of "There is Nothin' Like a Dame" and the nurses' "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Out of My Hair," both performed with high energy, snappy choreography, wit, and humor. The Thanksgiving Follies scene was also a lot of fun.

Carmen Cusack (pictured above) was a delight as the cockeyed optimist, Ensign Nellie Forbush. Cusack played the role with joy and emotion and energy. You just had to watch her when she was on stage. Matthew Saldivar was marvelous as Luther Billis, Rod Gilfry is an opera dude who really belted 'em out as Emile de Becque, and Keala Settle was a total scene stealer as Bloody Mary.

Somehow, though, the show really dragged at times. Sorta reminded me of the old Noel Coward bit: "She stopped the show. But the show wasn't really traveling very fast." Perhaps it's unfair to note that the show didn't live up to its hype. No show could. And one should take Tony Awards with a large grain of salt (witness the accolades heaped on the boring and pedestrian Light in the Piazza.) Despite its length, South Pacific was pretty entertaining. But I'll be glad to wash Bart Sher right out of my hair and send him on his way.

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