As the two-and-a-half-year run of South Pacific draws to a close, I thought I would ask everyone involved with the production - actors, designers, Lincoln Center Theater staff - to name the moment or moments they would most like to re-live from the entire experience. This is not an easy assignment: these years have been such an ocean of images and emotions that it's almost unfair to ask anyone to scoop out just a sip or two. And I have to admit that my own response is pretty general: I have loved observing the lobby of the Vivian Beaumont Theater each matinee or evening before showtime. There is something uplifting about watching hundreds of people, full of the expectation of pleasure, milling about just before taking the plunge.
Here are a few of the moments that several South Pacific friends and colleagues have engraved in memory:
Loretta Ables Sayre (Bloody Mary)
My most memorable moment was at the sitz probe. After rehearsing with just a piano in the room, we finally got to the day where we sang all the music with the entire orchestra. Hearing the overture had us all so emotional. But when it was my turn to sing "Bali Ha'i", I almost didn't make it through the song. At the end of it, I burst into almost uncontrollable tears. It was the first time in my life that I had ever sung with an orchestra and hearing the harp and the strings swell took my breath away. I realized the gift and the responsibility that had been given to me to sing these iconic songs and that thrill has never left me. I will carry that day in my mind and my heart for the rest of my life.
Danny Burstein (Luther Billis)
My favorite moment didn't happen just once. It happens at every performance. It happens in the second act, just before the "Honey Bun" number. I'm not in the wings but upstage, behind the set's fake curtain. Every night, I've got about two minutes there with Nellie Forbush, before we go on. We have a great time up there, talking and laughing and just in general building up our energy before we go on. I've shared that moment with all the Nellies - Kelli O'Hara, Laura Osnes, Laura Marie Duncan, Garrett Long. They've all been great.
Li Jun Li (Liat)
I will never forget the single most hysterical moment on stage when Matthew Morrison (Lt. Joe Cable) was still here: In the beginning of my entrance into "Happy Talk," I run towards Cable and he picks me up. At this particular performance for some reason all I felt was Matt and I falling slow motion down onto ground; his feet had slipped from underneath him as if he stepped on a banana peel, and all my weight was already in his arms. We both fell flat on the ground and made a huge "thump" while Paulo Szot had to face upstage to hide his giggling face and I had to find a graceful way to pull myself back up without making it look like it was an accident. It seemed like the audience bought it because the only people laughing were the four of us on stage: Matt, myself, Loretta, and Paulo -- deep underneath our twitching faces.
Garrett Long (Ensign Sue Yaeger)
Here's a partial list:
1) Noah Weisberg's hair and hat
2) Loretta Ables Sayre and the opening night flowers and leis she gave everyone.
3) Bob Lenzi's South Pacific graduation ceremony in Spring 2008. He had joined our show before he graduated from Carnegie-Mellon. He couldn't be at his CM commencement, so we had our own ceremony for him.
4) The 500 cupcakes we received as a gift from Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise
5) First-year Bowling among the cast
6) The freezing nurses constantly huddling around the wig dryer, which is backstage in the hallway near the Stage Manager's office.
Jessica Niebanck (LCT Associate General Manager)
At the start of the sitz probe (the first moment late in the rehearsal period when the cast first meets the orchestra) when the orchestra struck up those unmistakable first three notes of "Bali Ha'i" that begin the overture - so simple, strong, immediate and wonderfully overwhelming.
Nick Mayo (Richard West)
If I could revisit one moment during this amazing journey it would be the day we moved from the rehearsal space to the stage. The first time we toured the set and explored our new home was so moving. To see the ocean and Bali H'ai and have our imagined world come to life was something I will treasure forever.
Robert Lenzi (Billy Whitmore)
I left college just before my final semester began in order to start rehearsal for South Pacific. On a Sunday in May later that year, my classmates were getting ready to listen to Al Gore and Randy Pausch give commencement speeches at Graduation...while I was getting ready for a matinee. No graduation for me. But I got the next best thing: my own ceremony in which I paraded around the backstage green room at intermission and received a fake paper diploma while "Pomp and Circumstance" blared on a boom box.
Laura Osnes (Nellie Forbush)
What a collection of moments to pick from...it's impossible to choose just one! A few come to my mind:
-- At curtain call of my second-to-last performance (Saturday evening, August 7, 2010), I was pretty teary-eyed knowing I had just one show left. After the cast acknowledged the orchestra and took one final bow, I turned to Paulo and we started walking off stage together. He saw the tears in my eyes and literally scooped me up into his arms and CARRIED me all the way to my dressing room while I sniffled into his shoulder!! I felt like the damsel in distress being lovingly rescued by her handsome prince!
-- On a funnier note, there were three instances throughout my run where I ripped my pants during "Honey Bun". I guess I was a little overenthusiastic. Though it made for a funny memory, it was always a little embarrassing and distracting for me to know I had a huge hole in my pants during the intense racism scenes with Cable and Emile immediately following.
-- Oh, I nearly forgot! There was a matinee in May (2010) where the entire audience was filled with energetic and overly responsive school students. It was on this day that I had one of the most humiliating wipe-outs in my onstage history (and I had maybe eight total falls during this run -- that soap during "Wash that Man" is slippery!). However, there was no soap or water involved here, just a terrible misstep on my part when I'm supposed to step up into the shower. I apparently didn't pick my foot up enough and completely tripped getting in there. The shower's swinging doors bumbled back and forth behind me, and I found myself suddenly on my face, with my feet dangling out toward the audience and my head sticking through the back panel of the shower unit! Keep in mind I'm wearing only a swimsuit. I debated whether I should crawl through and come around from behind the shower, or if I should pull my head back to the stage side and stand up on my feet again. I opted for the latter upon realizing that the show was not going to stop just because I fell on my face. I managed to stand and throw in a sassy, "I'm alright!" so the girls knew I wasn't dying. In the next four seconds I made sure I wasn't bleeding. It was just a scrape on my elbow. Though I was exceedingly embarrassed, I resolved not to cry. That is, until I finally got off stage 15 minutes later. It would be really nice to go back and pretend this humiliation never happened!
Michael Yeargan (Set Designer)
For me, it was the oohs and aahs and spontaneous applause that greeted the first revelation of the full orchestra during the overture during the very first preview.
Andrew Samonsky (Lt. Joseph Cable)
One of the most beautiful experiences I had with South Pacific was when I was understudying my role and I got swung out to watch the show from the sound booth. We had already done about a hundred performances at this point, but by the end of the first scene between Kelli and Paulo, I had tears in my eyes, overwhelmed by what a beautiful production this was. Performing it is an incredible thrill, but I must always remember that just as special is the joy of being in the audience. That's why we do this, for them.
Laurissa Romain (Ngana), via Mom, Laurie Sheppard
Laurissa loves being the first one to open the show and enter running and laughing on stage and to top that, while the stage is moving! She said that it's so much fun!
Luka Kain (Jerome) via Mom, Lisa Calli
I just asked Luka, he said he would love to re-live the very first night because then he would get to do it all over again. He is very sad and out of sorts with the end of the run approaching! It's a new experience for him to learn loss, which is what he feels because the end is like losing family members at this point!
BRENDAN LEMON is the American theater critic for the Financial Times and the editor of lemonwade.com.
I'm sooooo excited to see this again on PBS, as I remember seeing it in the local theater as a 13 year old and will never forget it!!! I LOVED it! I'm taping it so I can watch it over and over. Thank you so much for having it available to the public!!! Sincerely!!
This production with its stellar cast is a joyful experience for everyone. Bartlet Shear has come a long way since he was a member of the Dieter's Dream cast.
Just wonderful... Thank you, thank you for a truly unforgetable performance of this classic show...
A wonderful production. I thank PBS for allowing us to enjoy my favorite show. I've never seen a live production; just the movie. This was a great evening of television.
I was eleven years old when South Pacific was first presented. Growing up in the midwest I didn't see the Broadway production, but the music from the cast album was played over and over by my older brothers and sister in our home and I knew the words to every song. It was a very special time for me to watch the production on T.V. last night and sing along with the actors. My husband was amazed because he saw something he hadn't seen in all of our 50plus years of marriage. I was in the South Pacific and it was certainly one "Enchanted Evening." Thank you to all who made this possible.
I was so fortunate to be in New York and attend three different performances of South Pacific. Each time it brought tears to my eyes and joy to my heart. What a tremendous production. I almost feel a sense of loss with its closing. Thank you to Lincoln Center for taking on this production. We were able to enjoy watching it one last time on "Live at Lincoln Center" last evening. Bravo !!!!
I saw the show this spring and was totally blown away. Everything is so amazing; the cast, the songs, the story, the set, the orchestra - even the theatre (after I found it). I was so excited to see it again on PBS - WOW it was great - Thank You so much for allowing me to see it again.
What an exquisite performance! I was entranced. The director told Alan Alda he had never seen a production of South Pacific!!!!! It was gorgeous....
What a wonderful live recording last night. Paul Szot and Kelli O'hara really are just perfect for this show. Although I am not able to see it in New York, I have just booked tickets for the closest stop to me for the tour in Toronto, Canada. I am very excited to see this wonderful revival on stage, and I will also try to get the fabulous new video when it comes out. In the mean time, congratulations on a very special show, and to all the cast and creative team, have a wonderful last 5 performances!
What a thrill it was to watch Live from Lincoln Center and finally see this gem I have been following since it opened. Although I visited New York on many theatre going trips thru the 70's, 80's and 90's - physical limitations prevent me now. What a joy to watch this almost intact original cast -which I felt gave just as fresh and crisp a performance as if it were opening night. Bravo Paulo et al, for a splendid job. I hope to see more of all of you in the future. Ray Dymond - a fan from Michigan
As a former child performer on Broadway, I empathize with Luka and Laurissa for their feelings of "loss" at the completion of their run. For me the relationships I have kept with castmates for over 50 years(!!) has been loving, inspiring, and heartwarming. Good luck in your future endeavors, and thanks for a great show. I loved it!!
Watched South Pacific on PBS the other night, was not going to watch since I knew the story backwards and forwards, but I decided to watch anyway and I am soooo happy I did. I fell in love, even though I am married for more than 40 years. Andrew Samonsky, as Lt Cable, I was enthralled, what else can I say. Will record the next performance that airs so that I can be sure to watch it any time I wish. Have never ever blogged anything but had to research his performance just to tell him how great he was. Have not seen Andrew in any other role, but you can be sure if I know he is in it, I will be buying a ticket, even if he just stands there and does nothing. Stella
I have seen the show six times, and will see the final performance on Aug. 22. It has been a great thrill for me to come to know the show pretty well, and appreciate the nuances that all the actors bring to it. The music is fabulous, and the musicians contribute so much to the experience. I am grateful to the entire company and the folks at Lincoln Center for making this possible.
Recently viewed the PBS broadcast of South Pacific the other night and loved it. Was not going to watch initially since I knew the story backwards and forwards but I decided to watch anyway and was soooo glad I did. Andrew Samonsky as Lt Cable, what can I say, I am in love. I have never blogged to anyone about anything but had to find out how to get in touch with this wonderful actor and tell him how delighted I am with his performance. I plan on saving the next broadcast of South Pacific so that I can watch it again and again at my leisure. I have never seen Andrew in anything else but I will tell you this, if he is in it, I will be buying a ticket, even if he just stands there and does nothing. Warmest regards, Stella, LI NY
I was very moved by the PBS telecast on 8/18. I played one of the nurses in a semi-staged production of SP 2 1/2 years ago with a full orchestra-.nothing like the sound of the orchestrations from the R & H musicals. The Follies brought back all the hilarity we experienced in not having to worry about goofing up.
Thank You very much for making this wonderful production of "South Pacific" available to the public. Sincerely. Lorraine Chandler Athens, Texas
I fell in love with this show the first time I saw it over 2 years ago. Before the end of the first act I knew I had to see it again and went back a few days later. Since then I have gone to see it as often as possible (I stopped counting a while ago) and loved it more each time. Everything was perfect- the casting, the staging, the theater and that amazing orchestra. I'll never forgot the moment I first saw the stage roll back to reveal the orchestra. Pure magic! Thank you to everyone involved in this production. I am sad to see it go. I was there yesterday for the final show and it was quite a moving experience. And thanks to Lincoln Center and whoever else is responsible for the Live from Lincoln Center broadcast. I am so happy to have it on dvd so I can relive it whenever I want. Also thank you for writing this blog. I have enjoyed reading it over the last few years and learning more about this wonderful production.
From the moment the show opened, I felt a desire to see this show in person. I learned to sing all the songs as a little girl, singing along to the then SP album, six 2-sided 78 rpm records. The music is magical to me and I am in debt to the cast and crew for providing me with the best BD present I ever had, including getting to see BOTH Ms. O'Hara and Mr. Szot in their roles. What a cast! I was mesmerized by all your amazing talent. BRAVO.. and thank you!!!
i watched twiced on pbs alan alda was right the show makes you cry cant wait when south pacific comes to cincinnati in sept at the arnoff center for the performing arts the show on pbs was excellent cant wait to see it
Please air this amazing show again. It deserves to be seen by all those who missed it the first time. Don't be stingy. This show was as near perfection as Broadway can get. Please air it again! Or beter yet, make it available in video form to capture for all time!