Several South Pacific cast members have appeared in productions of the show before arriving in its Lincoln Center Theater incarnation: in colleges, in community theaters, in non-Equity bus-and-truck-tours for which Boise counted as "a major city." But none of them, to my knowledge, made their theatrical debut in it.
I mention this partly to indicate that my long months of feeling I was the only one in that category are now ended (I first bounded in front of the footlights in a South Pacific staging when I was 9, in a Yankton, South Dakota college production), and partly as a way of introducing the newest cast member in the LCT ensemble: Jason Michael Snow, who plays Yeoman Herbert Quale.
The name Mr. Snow conjures up another Rodgers & Hammerstein musical done at LCT, Carousel, but the other day during a rehearsal break Jason assured me that he first got in costume not in that show but in South Pacific. It was at Ferris High School, in Spokane, Washington, when he was a sophomore. "I played Lt. Cable," Snow said. "I was raised on Rodgers & Hammerstein - my mom loved that era - so it was a natural fit for me."
From that SP to this one for Snow was, to use acting's favorite cliché, a journey. He began at the Boston Conservatory, where he completed a BFA in musical theater, jumped to an immediate post-graduation job in 2006 at Goodspeed in Connecticut, where he did The Pirates of Penzance. He moved to New York for a round of catering and waitering before participating in the workshop of Man in the Ceiling, a musical, by Andrew Lippa, about a little boy who likes to draw. After a stint in the musical Saved at New York's Playwrights Horizons, Snow booked the post-Broadway-run tour of the musical Xanadu.
"I didn't really see all of the U.S.A. on that one," says Snow about the tour, which began in October 2008 and finished in May 2009. "We did three-and-a-half months in San Diego, three-and-a-half months in Chicago, and a month in Tokyo."
Hearing that last stop, I immediately presented Snow with a quick Larry King-like follow-up: "Why Tokyo?"
Snow replied: "Olivia Newton John" - who starred in the 1980 movie version - "is kind of a cult figure in Japan." But did people "get" the show's stand-up type of comedy? "Well, we learned after we got started in Tokyo that some of the Japanese supertitles were a little creative. At one point, the two bad muses say, 'Let us not giggle, let us cackle.' The translation went: 'Let us not laugh, let us act like two old women and talk in loud voices.' So much for economy."
Lyrical challenges are something that Snow himself has been dealing with lately, as he composes the music for a new musical called Hey, You Know What Movie Would Make a Good Musical? "I'm doing it with two of my friends from the Boston Conservatory," Snow says. "Being in South Pacific is inspiring me to make it more of a book musical." The four movie classics that come in for the sharp yet loving jabs of this show are: Jerry Maguire, Scream, Home Alone, and Twister.
That last one - inspired of course by the 1996 picture in which Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt race around after tornadoes - is the one that whets my appetite. You can get a sense of what aspect of this project you yourself prefer by clicking here, which will take you to the YouTube page where Snow & Co. perform excerpts. You haven't lived till you see what they've done withMaguire's "Show Me The Money!"
BRENDAN LEMON is the American theater critic for the Financial Timesand the editor of lemonwade.com.