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Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Everybody Loves Bartlett

posted by on April 8 at 12:17 PM


Critics high and low are going all squishy and gushy about the new Broadway revival of South Pacific (which opened at the Lincoln Center on April 3).

And they’re giving special rose-petal-and-champagne showers to director Bartlett Sher, who will most certainly be nominated again for a directing Tony (to add to his previous nominations for Piazza and Awake and Sing).

John Lahr, practicing restrained enthusiasm in The New Yorker:

Under the elegant, astute direction of Bartlett Sher, Lincoln Center’s revival—the first on Broadway since the show’s début—is a majestic spectacle. Conjured by Michael Yeargan’s superb sets and Donald Holder’s evocative lighting, the romantic and rollicking nineteen-forties world comes to life. But there is nothing retro about the show’s debate. Now, as then, the nation is stuck on issues of race, war, and, as the musical puts it, a ‘thing called hope.’

Ben Brantley, losing his curmudgeonly mind in The New York Times:

I know we’re not supposed to expect perfection in this imperfect world, but I’m darned if I can find one serious flaw in this production… I think a lot of us had forgotten that’s what ‘South Pacific’ is really about. In making the past feel unconditionally present, this production restores a glorious gallery of genuine people who were only waiting to be resurrected.

And Terry Teachout, my perennial favorite, in the Wall Street Journal—he identifies flaws in the source material, but cannot stop himself from drooling over Sher:

Why did South Pacific vanish from the New York stage after so triumphant and profitable a run? Lincoln Center Theater’s awesomely fine revival, which opened last night, answers that question once and for all. Bartlett Sher, best known on Broadway for his work on The Light in the Piazza, has directed it as well as it can possibly be directed, and Kelli O’Hara is giving a full-fledged name-above-the-title performance in the starring role created six decades ago by Mary Martin. Nearly every aspect of this production — sets, costumes, lighting, even the sumptuous-sounding orchestra — is exemplary. Yet the show itself, in spite of its hit-laden score, left me tepid, and I suspect that most people seeing it for the first time will feel the same way.

South Pacific goes dead in the water every time the characters stop singing and start talking, which is way too often…. Will true love purge our poor benighted heroine of her racism? Will her middle-aged suitor be killed in a daredevil mission behind Japanese lines? Would that one could care, but Hammerstein preaches his sermon with head-thumping triteness.

Bonus round: South Pacific has given the swoony gays at Modern Fabulosity a new object d’amour in Paolo Szot, the Brazilian opera singer playing Emile De Bec:


We chatted, but all too soon he turned to go…but not before locking eyes with mine and thanking me, deeply, gratefully, soulfully, for coming to the show. I tried to yell out, ‘I Will Be Your Babymama,’ but he was already moving down the hall. And like that (poof)… he was gone. But he will be mine. Oh yes, he will be mine. I’m a Broadway stalker from way back, bitches… Bali H’ai is calling my name, and on some enchanted evening soon, Paolo will definitely see this stranger across a crowded room, if you know what I’m saying, and I think you do.

Congratulations, Mr. Sher.

RSS icon Comments


I SO cannot wait to see this production. Can. Not. Wait.

Posted by Michigan Matt | April 8, 2008 12:23 PM

wow...didn't know Rajkhet Dirzhud-Rashid was writing over at Modern Fabulosity.


Posted by michael strangeways | April 8, 2008 12:39 PM

It wasn't John Lahr getting swoony in the New York Times, it was Ben Brantley.

Posted by Roscoe | April 8, 2008 12:39 PM

As I see it, the challenge of a revival lies in reproducing something in a such way that it emits a vibe of newness. And unlike the original 1949 production of SP, everyone walks into this one knowing what to expect.

SP is supposed to be jarring and the shaking commences in the form of social commentary. The original audience experienced that; this new audience cannot. It's far too jaded by assassinations, Selma, unpopular wars, Watergate, gay lib, and the women's movement to be shocked by and re-educated about biracial children or interracial marriage.

The best that this new audience can hope for is a refreshing take on a wonderful R&H period piece. It appears that's what they're getting.

That said - is there anything better than Rodgers and Hart/Hammerstein?

Posted by Bauhaus | April 8, 2008 12:52 PM

Thanks, Roscoe. That's what I get for a bad cut and paste job without previewing my post.

Posted by Brendan Kiley | April 8, 2008 12:56 PM

So, uh, is our boy Bart going to ever produce a full-on play at Intiman again? Because the one-man show Namaste Man is not going to cut it.

Posted by Greg | April 8, 2008 1:34 PM

Dare I say what so many think: Broadway-style musicals are insipid, emotionally vacant, and uncompelling as art. And I say that as a gay man.

Posted by Simac | April 8, 2008 1:44 PM

I would like to see the modern take of the show. I find it a little too stand there and sing then let's talk to consider it a great musical. Maybe I need to see this production to change my mind.

Loved Kelly O'Hara's interview on NPR, when she said that the naked prejudice she has to portray on stage makes her want to take a shower.

Good stuff

Posted by Clearlyhere | April 8, 2008 2:28 PM

@7 - I had no idea there was even one other fag who felt the way I do. I about threw up when a friend dragged me to 42nd Street a few years ago. I'd rather be fileted alive. It is disheartening to look at the listings for New York, and even worse, London, and see that it's mostly revival musical SHIT. There was a time you could go see great actors ripping each other to pieces on stage, now that's entertainment

Posted by halle fucking lujah | April 8, 2008 3:32 PM

What? No scene where, for no reason whatsoever the sea-bees push a large deep-freeze across the stage?

Sounds to me like ole Bart is slipping...

Posted by Joe Adcock's Opposing Adjectives | April 8, 2008 8:40 PM

OK - let's put the show tunes thing to rest. All gay men aren't into Broadway. And to believe that they are is to call attention to oneself as being limited. But like Mel Brooks said in "To Be or Not To Be" when a Nazi told him of the plan to rid the Polish theater of gypsies and fags, "What?" he said, "Without gypsies and fags, there is no theater!"

Many gay men can survive quite well without musicals, but no musical can survive without gay men.

Posted by Bauhaus | April 8, 2008 8:53 PM

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