South Pacific - October 12 - October 20, 2018

Webster Theatre Guild

 Director's Notes 



You've Got to be Carefully Taught...


Following their success with Oklahoma! (1943) and Carousel (1945), Rodgers and Hammerstein set out to continue their streak of hits. When their next endeavor, Allegro (1947), flopped, they realized that their next project would have to be more populist. Whereas Oklahoma! and Carousel paid homage to American operetta and opera with its exoticism, the duo played on American musical comedy roots setting South Pacific in the present with a stronger emphasis on comedy. Unlike their previous two successes, the pair decided to omit a traditional dream ballet in an attempt to make the piece more realistic.


Their source material for the piece was a series of nineteen short stories titled Tales from the South Pacific by James A. Michener. Although many of the stories make some sort of appearance in South Pacific, Rodgers and Hammerstein were most taken by the tenth story, “Fo’ Dolla” in which a Philadelphia Airforce Pilot named Lt. Joe Cable falls in love with a local Tonkinese girl named Liat. It wasn’t until they cast Ezio Pinza and Mary Martin, who were both too old to play the young couple, that they decided to pull most of the plot from another story, “Our Heroine,” casting the two in the roles of Emile de Becque and Nellie Forbush, respectively. These two stars were the first stars to ever be cast in an original Rodgers and Hammerstein production and subsequently, the oldest leading couple of any R&H show. The Cable and Liat plot would become secondary.


South Pacific opened on Broadway on April 7, 1949 and ran for over five years. It won ten Tony Awards. South Pacific very candidly addresses racial prejudice as is most evident in Cable’s song “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught” which leads me to our production.


Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals have always been a favorite of mine specifically for their music but even further, I believe the themes they explore often still resonate today. I fear that musicals from this duo are often regarded as schmaltzy or traditional because of their age (and because of shoddy productions). However, in my opinion, there is no better time to perform South Pacific then right now. The notion that Nellie and Cable struggle with what their family will think of them should they engage with a differently raced partner is a subject matter worth exploring just as much now as it was in 1947. Unfortunately, I believe, we as a culture and as a society have a bit more growth to do on this front. Additionally, the idea that hate is taught. Emile tells Nellie, “I do not believe this is born in you.” Hate is a product of upbringing and environment and as people, we should acknowledge differences sensitively and with an open mind.


I want to thank you for attending our production of South Pacific. I also want to take an opportunity to thank Erica, Paula, Elissa, and Jim as well as the Webster Theater Guild for supporting me through every part of the process. Thank you to Brian, Tony, Stacie, and Annie for stepping where you saw there was a need for some support. It really has become our own special island. I hope you have an enchanted evening (or daytime) as you sit back, relax, and enjoy WTG’s production of South Pacific.

Page 25 of 28