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Gayer than laughter am I

Well, I'm not, but I saw the touring re-re-re-revival of "South Pacific" last night at the Keller, and contrary to my expectations, I enjoyed it a lot; some beautiful melodies are stuck in my head today as a result.

It's a 60-year-old musical that was (according to my mom, who went with us) hugely talked about, nationwide, at the time, for its forward view of racism and its controversial stance on the recently-ended war in the Pacific. It won pretty much ALL the Tony awards in 1949.

I can kind of see why--and why it keeps being revived. Unlike many revivals of classic Broadway musicals, the story of "South Pacific" was serious in its time, and more than just a framework to hang songs and dances from, so it has aged reasonably well. I suppose it doesn't hurt that Hammerstein and Logan adapted it from James Michener stories rather than from tabloid headlines or something.

Sure, the characters all act out of a World War II era sensibility, and it wouldn't pass Bechdel. But it does have a major character, Bloody Mary, who is both a woman and a person of color, and who acts from realistic motivations rather than being a mere comic-relief stereotype (though she's also darkly funny). There's even a gender-swap scene. (I know, that was always a staple of the musical stage.)

And the songs are still beautiful. "Younger Than Springtime," "Bali Hai," and "Some Enchanted Evening" have some of Richard Rodgers' best melodies and most lush orchestrations, and even though the tenor lead does sing "Gayer than laughter am I", I managed to bite back the 12 year old snicker as he soared up to the high notes.

Crossposted from Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comments. | Comment at Dreamwidth.

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