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Friday, April 4, 2008

South Pacific

As potent an indictment of racism today as when it premiered in 1949, the classic musical based on James Michener's stories -- touted as its first Broadway revival (conveniently overlooking a lavish 1967 summer run) -- is here given a truly splendid mounting by director Bartlett Sher, this time courtesy of Lincoln Center Theater.

With Brazilian baritone Paulo Szot as French planter Emile DeBeque and Kelli O'Hara as World War II nurse Nellie Forbush, the show is strongly cast and beautifully designed to fill the vast Beaumont stage, yet it feels pin-droppingly intimate when it needs to be.

The opening moments are especially breathtaking, as the stage floor recedes to reveal a 30-piece orchestra below. For all the glories of the score, one is struck by how well the property works as drama; this is truly thanks to Hammerstein and original director Joshua Logan's strong script -- a play with songs.

Plot complications involving past and future interracial marriages are hardly the standard ingredients of musicals, even today. The cast, including Matthew Morrison as Lt. Cable, Danny Burstein as Luther Billis and Loretta Ables Sayre as Bloody Mary, makes the parts their own

(Vivian Beaumont Theater, 150 W. 65th St.; (212) 239-6200 or www.telecharge.com). Print this post

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