Cast Size: Small (1-10) • Medium (5-21) • Large (14+). Vocal Demands: Easy • Moderate. Dance Requirements: Some Dancing Required • Minimal. Good For: Elementary School • High School • College/University • Amateur/Community • Professional Theatre • Religious Organization.
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Table of Contents
Block, Geoffrey. The Richard Rodgers Reader. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.
Ewen, David. Richard Rodgers. New York: Holt, 1957.
Ewen, David. With a Song in His Heart (Richard Rodgers). New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1963.
Fordin, Hugh. Getting To Know Him: The Biography of Oscar Hammerstein II. New York: Random House, 1977; Decapo Press, 1995.
Green, Stanley. The Rodgers and Hammerstein Story. New York: John Day, 1963; Decapo Press (Paperback), 1980.
Green, Stanley. The Rodgers and Hammerstein Fact Book. Milwaukee: Hal Leonard, 1980.
Hammerstein II, Oscar. Lyrics. Introduction by the author, Preface by Stephen Sondheim. Milwaukee: Hal Leonard, 1985.
Logan, Joshua. Josh. New York: Delacorte Press, 1976.
Martin, Mary. My Hearts Belongs (Autobiography). New York: William Morrow & Co., Inc., 1976.
Michener, James A. Tales of the South Pacific. New York: Curtis Publishing House, 1946.
Michener, James A. James A. Michener Tells SOUTH PAFICIC. Illustrated by Michael Hague. New York: Harcourt brace Jovanovich, 1992.
Mordden, Ethan. Rodgers & Hammerstein. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1992.
Nolan, Frederick. The Sound of Their Music. New York: Walker, 1978; Applause Books, 2002.
Rodgers, Richard. Musical Stages: An Autobiography. New York: Random House, 1975; New York: Jove Paperback, 1978; DeCapo Press, 1995; (Revised Edition, 2002).
Taylor, Deems. Some Enchanted Evenings. New York: Harper, 1953.
On an island in the South Pacific during World War II, Nellie Forbush, a young Navy nurse from Little Rock, Arkansas, meets and falls in love with a gallant, middle-aged Frenchman, Emile de Becque. Emile is a planter and has lived on this particular island for twenty-five years. When he proposes to Nellie, he confesses that the reason he had to flee France was because he killed a man—the town bully whom no one else would stand up to. Nellie is able to accept this explanation and promises to consider Emile’s proposal of marriage.
Also stationed on the island is a group of restless sailors, Seabees and marines who are obviously bored and sorely in need of female companionship. Souvenir collecting is about the only active pastime and has developed into a healthy competitive marketing war between Seabee Luther Billis, who has cornered the market in everything from grass skirts to shrunken heads, and Bloody Mary, the local Tonkinese dealer in such trophies.
Lieutenant Joseph Cable, a handsome young Marine, arrives with an assignment to persuade de Becque, who is familiar with the nearby islands, to accompany him on a dangerous secret mission. Their task would be to hide out on a Japanese-held island, watch for enemy ships and convey this information to their own pilots, who would then use this first-hand intelligence to attack the Japanese convoys. Nellie’s friendship with Emile is known to the Island Commander and she is asked to obtain all the information she can about the circumspect Frenchman.
Meanwhile, Luther Billis has a mission of his own—to get over to the mysterious and forbidden island of Bali Ha’i—and he convinces Lt. Cable to lead a pleasure-seeking expedition there. On the island, Bloody Mary introduces Cable to her beautiful daughter, Liat, and the Lieutenant falls in love with her.
Confused about her feelings for Emile, Nellie decides to play it safe and announces steadfastly “I’m gonna wash that man right outa my hair!” But Emile convinces her of his love, when he invites her to dinner at his home so that his friends may meet her, Nellie accepts and has a wonderful evening. Nellie is in love, and for the first time believes she and Emile could spend a wonderful lifetime together. Emile introduces her to two sweet native children, the off-spring of a Polynesian woman and a European. Nellie is charmed by the children but then, when Emile informs her that they are his, the prejudices and fear inherent in her mid-‘50s, small town upbringing rise to the surface and, panicked, she runs from Emile and from the future they had just planned.
At the same time Joe Cable, despite his deep love for Liat, is caught is a similar trap of his own prejudices and, though he loves her, decides he cannot marry her.
Both Cable and Emile are feeling the recklessness of lost love, and with that recklessness comes the willingness to take greater risks. They embark on their spy mission to a neighboring island where, for a few days, the plan works and they are able to transmit messages of Japanese naval maneuverings. Eventually they are discovered, however; Cable is killed, and a radio contact with Emile is cut off.
Faced with the sudden realization that she may have lost Emile, Nellie is able to put her fears and meaningless prejudices into perspective and realizes that her love for him and the things he stands for is paramount. She makes her way to his home and is feed lunch to his two children, whom she loves as her own, when Emile returns. He is weary, he is battle-worn, but he is alive, reunited with his children, and with Nellie.
The tale of SOUTH PACIFIC is as fascinating as the tales that inspired it. When director Joshua Logan suggested the idea of doing a musical based on James Michener’s collection of short stories, Tales of the South Pacific, to producer Leland Hayward, Hayward immediately saw its possibilities. Logan, who had already achieved great success in the post World War II theatre with his production of MISTER ROBERTS, saw a great dramatic potential in focusing on one corner of the vast world war that had just been fought. He conveyed his vision to longtime friend and collaborator, composer Richard Rodgers.
Rodgers though that several of the stories had strong dramatic potential, and his opinion was confirmed by his partner, librettist/lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II (who had also sought comments from his son William Hammerstein who had not only served as stage manager for Logan’s MISTER ROBERTS but had himself served with the U.S. Navy in the South Pacific during the war.) While Logan had originally intended to musicalize only one of the stories in Michener’s collection, “Fo’ Dolla,” it was Rodgers’ idea that they secure rights to the entire book to draw different characters and plot strands for their musical.
This turned out to be a wise move because, upon closer investigation, the romance at the heart of “Fo’ Dolla”—about a handsome American marine officer and the local island girl whose heart he breaks—was too close to Puccini’s MADAME BUTTERFLY to build an entire musical around (at least, such was the thinking in the days before MISS SAIGON.) So, while it was decided to make this the tragic subplot of the musical, another romance was needed to give SOUTH PACIFIC its dramatic structure. A story called “Our Heroine” seemed to be a better choice for a main plot and its unusual May-December romance was perfectly suited to Rodgers and Hammerstein’s penchant for writing to challenging situations. This story dealt with a romance between a middle-aged French planter, Emile de Becque, and Nellie Forbush, a young American nurse from Little Rock, Arkansas while also delving into the disturbing issue or racial intolerance and bigotry.
Casting the starring roles was comparatively easy. Ezio Pinza, the famed Metropolitan Opera basso, was anxious to appear in a Broadway musical and the part of Emile was perfectly suited for him. Mary Martin, who had impressed Rodgers and Hammerstein the year before with her fresh, down-home country appeal in the title role of the national tour of ANNIE GET YOUR GUN, was their first and only choice for Nellie. Mary Martin, however, needed some coaxing; she was dying to appear in the musical, but nervous about co-starring with a talent as large as Ezio Pinza. “What do you want,” she reportedly quipped. “Two basses?”
But one hearing of the score convinced her. Knowing who they wanted for their leads, Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote the score for them. Thus, the two leads are never in musical competition with each other; in fact, rarely to they even sing a duet with one another (a gentle reprise of “Some Enchanted Evening” is the only exception, while their “Twin Soliloquies” are more complementary than competing.) Emile, the romantic European, is given such luxuriant, rolling numbers as “Some Enchanted Evening,” and “This Nearly Was Mine” while Nellie from Little Rock gets the infectious, brassy Broadway sounds of “Honey Bun,” “I’m In Love with a Wonderful Guy,” and “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair.”
Although it had its share of problems, SOUTH PACIFIC enjoyed a comparatively smooth sail to Broadway via out of town tryouts in New Haven and Boston, Expectations were running high: the director and the authors were at the pinnacles of their careers; the two stars each had fans in their own arenas and together promised to create a whole new following; and the subject matter hit home to an America still dealing with the giddy excitement and relief at having survived a second world war in less than half a century.
By the time it opened on Broadway SOUTH PACIFIC was already legendary, the major theatrical event of Broadway in its golden era. Astonishingly, this was one musical that not only managed to meet its hype, but actually to top it. “Magnificent,” cheered Brooks Atkison in the New York Times. “SOUTH PACIFIC is as lively, warm, fresh and beautiful as we had all hoped it would be.”
SOUTH PACIFIC received the 1950 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and for the first time the committee included a composer (Richard Rodgers) in the drama prize. It received eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical, a Grammy Award and countless other accolades. For years the second-longest running show in Broadway history (right behind OKLAHOMA!), it has proven itself a classic in countless productions around the world and on the silver screen, where Rossan Brazzi and Mitzi Gaynor took us to the enchanted South Pacific.
Academy Awards (United States)January 01, 1958 — 3 Nominations for Best Sound, Color Cinematography, and Best Music (Scoring)
New York Drama Critics Circle Awards (United States)November 30, 1948 — Best Musical
Donaldson Awards (United States)January 01, 1950 — 9 Awards including Best Musical, Book, Lyrics and Score
Theatre World Awards (United States)November 30, 2007 — Loretta Ables Sayre
November 30, 2007 — Paulo Szot
Pulitzer Prize (United States)November 30, 1950 — Drama
Laurence Olivier Awards (London) (United States)November 30, 2002 — Best Actor in a Musical or Entertainment - Philip Quast
November 30, 2002 — Nominated for The Hilton Award for Outstanding Musical Production
Outer Critics Circle Awards (United States)November 30, 2007 — Outstanding Actor in a Musical - Paulo Szot
November 30, 2007 — Nominated for Outstanding Actress in a Musical - Kelli O'Hara
November 30, 2007 — Nominated for Outstanding Choreography - Christopher Gattelli
November 30, 2007 — Nominated for Outstanding Costume Design - Catherine Zuber
November 30, 2007 — Nominated for Outstanding Set Design - Michael Yeargan
November 30, 2007 — Outstanding Revival of a Musical
November 30, 2007 — Outstanding Director of a Musical - Bartlett Sher
November 30, 2007 — Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical - Danny Burstein
Drama Desk Awards (United States)November 30, 2008 — Nominated for Outstanding Lighting Design - Donald Holder
November 30, 2008 — Nominated for Outstanding Featured Actor - Danny Burstein
November 30, 2008 — Outstanding Sound Design in a Play - Scott Lehrer
November 30, 2008 — Nominated for Outstanding Actress in a Musical - Kelli O'Hara
November 30, 2008 — Outstanding Set Design - Michael Yeargan
November 30, 2008 — Outstanding Revival of a Musical
November 30, 2008 — Outstanding Director of a Musical - Bartlett Sher
November 30, 2008 — Outstanding Actor in a Musical - Paulo Szot
Tony Awards (United States)November 30, 1949 — Best Scenic Designer - Jo Mielziner
November 30, 1950 — Best Director - Joshua Logan
November 30, 1950 — Best Libretto - Oscar Hammerstein II and Joshua Logan
November 30, 1950 — Best Actress, Supporting or Featured (Musical) - Juanita Hall
November 30, 1950 — Best Actress (Musical) - Mary Martin
November 30, 1950 — Best Actor (Musical) - Ezio Pinza
November 30, 1950 — Best Actor, Supporting or Featured (Musical) - Myron McCormick
November 30, 1950 — Best Score - Richard Rodgers
November 30, 1950 — Best Producers (Musical) - Produced by Leland Hayward, Oscar Hammerstein II, Joshua Logan and Richard Rodgers.
November 30, 2008 — Best Revival (Musical) - Producers: Lincoln Center Theater, André Bishop, Bernard Gersten, Bob Boyett
November 30, 2008 — Nominated for Actress (Featured Role--Musical) - Loretta Ables Sayre
November 30, 2008 — Best Actor (Musical) - Paulo Szot
November 30, 2008 — Nominated for Best Actress (Musical) - Kelli O'Hara
November 30, 2008 — Nominated for Best Actor (Featured Role--Musical) - Danny Burstein
November 30, 1950 — Best Musical - Music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, book by Oscar Hammerstein II and Joshua Logan. Produced by Leland Hayward, Oscar Hammerstein II, Joshua Logan and Richard Rodgers
Vocal Range of Characters:
Notes on The Military
When SOUTH PACIFIC was first produced in 1949, audiences were largely familiar with the military aspects of the show. The farther World War II recedes into memory, however, the more unfamiliar the rankings, ratings, machinery, behavior, and feel of wartime military behavior become. By way of assistance we offer this brief guide to the military aspects of the show.
The characters in SOUTH PACIFIC have decidedly different ranks. Captain Brackett is the highest ranking officer, followed by Commander Harbison. They do not salute each other, but everyone else would salute either or both. When Captain Brackett and Commander Harbison first enter, however, [Act 1, Scene 3] the men pretend to be preoccupied and do not salute. This might bother the Captain if he weren’t so furious at Bloody Mary as not to notice. Joe Cable is a Marine Lieutenant and, as such, merits a salute from the enlisted men which he would return with a salute. He would also salute Captain Brackett and Commander Harbison. When Cable first enters the men should rise to salute him, but Billis signals them to desist. Luther Billis is a sailor who bullies, bribes, and charms his way through military life, although ultimately he always loses. He has no respect for authority unless he is scared or wants something.
The enlisted men are rated, not ranked. The ratings are Sailors, Marines, and Seabees and differ by their functions in way. Sailors serve at sea, Marines are amphibious troops who serve both on ships and on land, and Seabees are sailors who serve in the Construction Battalion (hence their acronym, C.B.) and are responsible for the construction and maintenance of the bases and their equipment. As the action of SOUTH PACIFIC takes place one step removed from the battlefront, there is a decidedly casual aspect to the enlisted men. They are caught in a middle ground—not quite in the war, not quite out of the war.
As for equipment, a PBY was a slow but steady seaplane used mostly for reconnaissance. Jerry cans are large metal rectangular cans to hold gasoline or other liquids, frequently seen strapped to the sides of jeeps.
Written By: Oscar Hammerstein II
Who creates a play?
I become more and more convinced that no writer creates anything, and no good writer tries. He knows he is an agent of the world he lives in, the world of his time and of centuries before his time.
What and who created this one musical play? The libretto derives from a book, Tales of the South Pacific, a group of stories which won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. How did James Michener 'create' these? Out of his head? Out of a typewriter? No. It seems he had a job in the Navy, a roving job that flew him back and forth among the islands of New Hebrides and New Guinea groups. In these journeys he met people and found them in situations partly created by a world war. I say partly created because their reactions to these situations were determined by their characters, and their characters were moulded by their immediate environments and heredities and the history of religion and science and poetry up to the time they were born. Michener took actualities and realities and fictionized them into a group of stories, some amusing, some deeply romantic.
Next step in 'creation': Leland Hayward thought these stories would make a good musical play. Next step: so did Rodgers and Hammerstein. For three months Dick Rodgers, Josh Logan and I wrote nothing. We struggled with the problem of selection. There were so many stories we liked. We couldn't use them all. We finally settled on two. We borrowed a few of our favorite characters from some of the other stories, and our next job was to combine all these into one coherent narrative. It took us a year to make this adaptation. We cannot, however, say that our work was the end of SOUTH PACIFIC's creation, for the theatre is a place of complex mass collaboration, and anyone who seeks to claim the sole credit for any play is a blind egomaniac.
This play emerged as the combined work of the composer, the authors, the director, the designers, the stars and their supporting cast, and many more who must be included as sources of creation. After all these had contributed their talents and energies, the final factor in creation was the audience. An audience must apply its composite heart and mind to a play, create it as something it believes should exist or destroy it as something it believes should not exist. So when the curtain rose on the opening night, the circle was complete.
This tale of the South Pacific, taken out of the living world and crystallized into theatrical form, was offered back to the living world for approval.
from 'How 'South Pacific' Was Written'
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- SOUTH PACIFIC: IN CONCERT - Orchestra Package (22 Books/25-31 Players)
- 1 – PIANO CONDUCTOR SCORE
- 1 – FLUTE (Doubling Piccolo)
- 1 – OBOE (Doubling English Horn)
- 1 – BASSOON
- 1 – HORN III
- 1 – TRUMPET III
- 1 – TROMBONE I
- 1 – TROMBONE II
- 1 – TUBA
- 1 – PERCUSSION
- 1 – VIOLA (Divisi)
- 1 – CELLO (Divisi)
- 1 – BASS
- 1 – HARP
- 1 – CLARINET I
- 1 – CLARINET II
- 1 – HORN I
- 1 – HORN II
- 1 – Trumpet I
- 1 – Trumpet II
- 1 – VIOLIN I
- 1 – VIOLIN II
- South Pacific: In Concert-Rehearsal Set (22 Books)
- 20 – Vocal Book
- 2 – PIANO CONDUCTOR SCORE
Large singing ensemble consisting of Islanders, Nuns, Officers, Sailors, Marines, and Soldiers
Ensign Nellie Forbush
Emile de Becque
Ngana his daughter
Jerome his son
Liat her daughter
Luther Billis a sailor
Stewpot (Carpenters Mate Second Class)
Lt. Joseph Cable, United States Marine Corps
Capt. George Brackett, United States Navy
Cmdr. William Harbison, United States Navy
Nurses, Officers, Sailors, Seabees, Marines and Soldiers, French Girls