This past Saturday, South Pacific had its "sitz-probe." I know, I know: that phrase sounds a little proctological, but in this context it is the meaning in German that is intended: "a seated rehearsal." This is the moment when the cast meets the musicians, and it was quite a melding. In LCT's large rehearsal room, the 40 actors sat in front of the 30 members of the production's orchestra and went through the songs and musical underscoring of South Pacific. They were led by musical director Ted Sterling. It was his birthday, which was feted not only with singing but with cake during a break. Among the assembled were a mini-audience of LCT friends, which included Mary Rodgers Guettel and Ted Chapin, President and Executive Director of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization.
The emotion in the room was close to the surface today, as it has been during all significant moments of the rehearsal process: the feeling seems to come in waves, as if in homage to the oceanic setting of the show. Some of the feeling was an almost goofy happiness: cast members watched their colleagues perform and bounced along in their seats; a few of them even took photos. Some performers seemed initially nervous, as if to say: how can I, a soloist, compete against the force of all these musicians aligned just a few feet away from me? Even the kids in the cast caused a tear or two: it turns out that sweetness can be unexpectedly touching.
Just when you think you are laughed and cried out from the whole experience, and that if you water up again that you'll never again be able to face your poker buddies, you find yourself reaching one more time for a tissue. That final waterworks moment came courtesy of our Bloody Mary, Loretta Ables Sayre, who, after singing "Bali Ha'i," broke down for a moment. After composing herself, she said, "You have to realize that this is the first time I've ever sung with an orchestra." As another of Bloody Mary's numbers has it, "You've got to have a dream." Ables Sayre's is visibly achieving one of hers.
BRENDAN LEMON is the American theater critic for the Financial Timesand the editor of lemonwade.com.