In one way or another, everyone in the cast of South Pacific is a trouper, and that goes doubly so for Laurissa Romain, who plays Ngana, and Andrew Samonsky, who plays Cable: until earlier this month, each had amassed a perfect attendance record. In other words, for almost a year (the first anniversary of LCT's South Pacific first preview will be this Sunday), neither of them missed doing a show. Rain or shine, they were there.
If no performer can now claim perfect attendance, at least one audience member can, in a manner of speaking. Carol Brown, of Astoria, Queens, has bought a ticket to South Pacific once a week for the past 52 weeks. I learned of her story as I was walking through the Beaumont lobby the other day and quite literally bumped into her. Brown was looking smart, all turned out in a purple cloth coat and black knee-high footwear with heels. ("I hate Ugg boots," she said. "They look like bedroom slippers, which should only be worn at home!")
Brown is a widow, of indeterminate age. ("What's the line from Mame? she said when I treaded -- discreetly, carefully -- in the direction of her birth year. "Between 40 and death.") She grew up in Hawaii, where she knew from palm trees. Her father was in the Navy.
"It isn't the military connection, though, or the tropical-island upbringing," Brown said, "that really explains why I love South Pacific. I just love the music, I guess. The first show I saw on Broadway was Two on the Aisle, with Bert Lahr and Dolores Grey. Everybody remembers Bert Lahr from The Wizard of Oz, but Dolores Grey's reputation is as faded as old newsprint. That show whetted my appetite."
Brown, whose family moved to New Jersey after her father retired from the Navy, says she was a stage-struck college student. "I used to take the bus in to the city every weekend, and see a couple of shows. Standing room cost nothing. I saw everything from the early 1950s onward. I don't see everything anymore. I'm not a fuddy-duddy: I love Obama, and Milk was my favorite movie from this year's Oscars. But I like big romantic musicals, preferably with adult characters in evening gowns, not teenagers in leather. South Pacific fits the bill."
Brown usually sees South Pacific on a Saturday or Sunday matinee. "It's my ritual," she says. "Some people go to church on the weekend; I go to Rodgers & Hammerstein. It's easier for me to go on Saturday or Sunday, even though the weekend subway, because of construction, slows things down a bit. I don't have just one section of the house that I sit in. I like to see things from every angle; that way I don't get tired of the production. Honestly, I think I'm happiest in the loge. You get the full sweep of everything up there, and the orchestra sounds so lush. I think the biggest reason I come every week is because I like to hear a musical score with a real orchestra. People have gotten too used to hearing a musical accompanied by just a banjo and a kazoo."
How does Brown afford her theatergoing? "My husband left me comfortably off," she responds. Does she have a favorite song from the show? "It changes," she replies. "Right now, I hum 'My Girl Back Home' a lot when I'm taking a bath." How about a favorite performer? "I know all the blue-haired crowd swoons over Paulo Szot, and, don't get me wrong, I think he's terrific. But I prefer Cable -- first Matthew Morrison, now Andrew Samonsky. I've always favored younger men, and, even at the age of 'between 40 and death,' I still do!"
BRENDAN LEMON is the American theater critic for the Financial Times and the editor of lemonwade.com