Capt. George Brackett, played at LCT by Murphy Guyer, is the most senior military male in South Pacific, and his defense of middle-aged men's attractiveness draws a laugh almost every night at the Beaumont. I can only imagine what the response to that remark was a few years back at Spackenkill High School, in Poughkeepsie, New York, when a teenaged Matt Wall played the part.
"That high-school Brackett is definitely one of the oldest characters I've ever played," Wall, currently a Swing member of SP, told me at LCT's backstage canteen last week just before curtain. "But it was a good experience, and it gave me a chance to get to know the South Pacific score."
Wall is the newest member of the South Pacific cast, but he's no Broadway novice nor a stranger to Lincoln Center Theater. "South Pacific is my eighth Broadway show," Wall said. "I was in Follies, in 2001, with Kelli O'Hara. And I was in Thoroughly Modern Millie after that. That was the only other Broadway show I've been in where there were about as many guys as there are in South Pacific."
Wall's LCT experience is much more recent: while he's been learning various roles this past month in South Pacific, at the Beaumont, he's been continuing to fill the Swing role in Happiness, downstairs in the Newhouse. Wall has been with the latter show since the beginning; it began rehearsals in January.
About his double duty, Wall says, "It's sort of strange and sort of wonderful. I mean, I've been living with South Pacific all year in a way. I come to the theater and I see people lined up for both shows." Wall continues: "It's a fun challenge to break into the South Pacific cast finally. People have formed these close relationships over the past year, and I'm the new guy. At the same time, I know people in the cast. I know Julie Foldesi, another Swing. And I went to school with Laura Marie Duncan (Ensign Dinah Murphy)."
At Spackenkill High? Was she in that teenage South Pacific? "No," Wall replies. "We went to the Boston Conservatory together. No South Pacificthere."
BRENDAN LEMON is the American theater critic for the Financial Timesand the editor of lemonwade.com.