South Pacific – Original Broadway Cast Recording 1949
On an island in the war zone, circa 1942, two Polynesian children (Barbara Luna and Michael Deleon) are playing outside a plantation house and happily singing – Dites-Moi. They are hurried off by a servant, and we see their father, Emile de Becque (Ezio Pinza), and the American nurse he has met, Nellie Forbush (Mary Martin). Emile is older and cultured, Nellie is “a little hick” from Little Rock, who nonetheless has her own singular take on the world – A Cockeyed Optimist. Emile and Nellie are falling in love, hesitantly – Twin Soliloquies. Nellie keeps backing away, however, and Emile observes that life’s moments have to be seized – Some Enchanted Evening. Nellie is again on the brink . . . but they are interrupted, and she runs off. Down island at a U.S. naval base, a group of Marines and Seabees are singing the praises of Bloody Mary (Juanita Hall), a Tonkinese woman who sells native crafts for “fo’ dolla’.” Her rival in commerce is an American sailor, Luther Billis (Myron McCormick), who operates a laundry but sees bigger profits in grass skirts and shrunken heads. The best trinkets – along with all the French planters’ daughters, rumor has it – are on the neighboring (and off-limits) island of Bali Ha’i, which looms in the mist. Here, however, women are few, as the Americans lament – There Is Nothin’ Like A Dame. Into this scene walks Lt. Joseph Cable (William Tabbert), who has arrived on the island with a secret mission – to recruit Emile de Becque to join him in setting up a spy post on another, Japanese-occupied island. Cable is a Philadelphia WASP with a Princeton degree and a proper fiancée back home, but he is susceptible to the romance of the tropics, especially when first Billis and then Bloody Mary spin tales of Bali Ha’i. Cable and the naval commander now enlist Nellie in another spy mission – to find out what sort of man Emile is, and whether he might join them. Nellie, for her part, has been trying to put aside her mother’s prejudices about people who are “different,” and she realizes how little she really knows about Emile. Pulling back once more, Nellie decides I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair. Her resolve doesn’t last beyond her next meeting with Emile, though. He confesses that he came to the South Pacific after he killed a man – the town bully – back home, but his goodness shines through, and Nellie embraces him, realizing she’s in love with A Wonderful Guy. The American officers approach Emile, who turns them down: with Nellie in his life, he has something to live for, and he sees the mission for the deadly risk it is. With Lt. Cable’s plans now delayed, his commander gives him a couple of days off, and Cable succumbs to Billis’s and Bloody Mary’s entreaties and takes a boat to Bali Ha’i. Billis is only interested in merchandise, but Bloody Mary leads Cable to a secluded hut where he meets her daughter, the beautiful Liat (Betta St. John). As Bloody Mary has l hoped and planned, it is love at first sight, and Cable is reborn – Younger Than Springtime. Back on the other island, on the terrace of Emile’s house, Nellie has just attended a party of Emile’s friends and is beginning to feel at home in his world. Emile, encouraged, introduces Nellie to the two children, whom she has not until this moment realized were his. Emile tells her about his relationship with a native woman, now dead. Whether it’s the thought of that interracial affair, or the prospect of being stepmother to two non-white children, Nellie’s Arkansas prejudices overcome her, and again she runs away as the curtain comes down. Act II opens with preparations for the Thanksgiving show at the naval base. Emile arrives, looking for Nellie, whom he hasn’t seen for two weeks: she has, in fact, as Emile now learns from Billis, put in for a transfer. As this sinks in, Cable enters, weak from malaria. Bloody Mary appears with Liat, intent on getting the two lovers married. As usual, Mary has her pitch all worked out – Happy Talk. But Cable, overcome by his prejudices, tells them he won’t marry Liat. Bloody Mary angrily drags her off as the “Thanksgiving Follies” get underway. The high point of the show is Nellie, dressed as a sailor, extolling the charms of her Honey Bun – Billis, in a grass skirt. Backstage, she encounters Lt. Cable, and they are trying to make sense of their jumbled feelings when Emile arrives. Nellie tells him she can’t marry him, either, but leaves it to Cable to tell him where these strange American prejudices come from – You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught. Emile, for his part, can only dwell on what he’s lost – This Nearly Was Mine. With his reason for living gone, he agrees to join Cable on his mission. Two weeks go by. Emile and Cable’s radio dispatches are helping American planes devastate Japanese shipping. In fact, Emile reports, the Japanese are withdrawing from the island – but not soon enough for Cable, who has died from wounds. The transmission breaks up as Emile again comes under attack. The Finale brings us back to Emile’s terrace. Most of the Americans are shipping out, but Nellie has remained, not knowing whether Emile is dead or alive, yet sure, at last, how she feels about him. She is playing with the children – whom she now clearly has taken to heart – when Emile appears, unhurt. The new family is sitting down to eat together as the curtain falls. – Marc Kirkeby
Ngana: Barbara Luna Jerome: Michael de Leon or Noel de Leon Henry: Richard Silvera Ensign Nellie Forbush: Mary Martin Emile de Becque: Ezio Pinza Bloody Mary: Juanita Hall Bloody Mary’s Assistant: Musa Williams Abner: Archie Savage Stewpot: Henry Slate Luther Billis: Myron McCormick Professor: Fred Sadoff Lt. Joseph Cable, U.S.M.C.: William Tabbert Capt. George Brackett, U.S.N.: Martin Wolfson Cmdr. William Harbison, U.S.N.: Harvey Stephens Yeoman Herbert Quale: Alan Gilbert Sgt. Kenneth Johnson: Thomas Gleason Seabee Richard West: Dickinson Eastham Seabee Morton Wise: Henry Michel Seaman Tom O’Brien: Bill Dwyer Radio Operator Bob McCaffrey: Biff McGuire Marine Cpl. Hamilton Steeves: Jim Hawthorne Staff Sgt. Thomas Hassinger: Jack Fontan Seaman James Hayes: Beau Tilden Lt. Genevieve Marshall: Jacqueline Fisher Ensign Dinah Murphy: Roslyn Lowe Ensign Janet MacGregor: Sandra Deel Ensign Cora MacRae: Bernice Saunders Ensign Sue Yaeger: Pat Northrop Ensign Lisa Minelli: Gloria Meli Ensign Connie Walewska: Mardi Bayne Ensign Pamela Whitmore: Evelyn Colby Ensign Bessie Noonan: Helena Schurgot Liat: Betta St. John Marcel: Richard Loo Lt. Buzz Adams: Don Fellows Islanders, Sailors, Marines, Officers: Mary Ann Reeve, Chin Yu, Alex Nicol, Eugene Smith, Richard Loo, William Ferguson.