On Thursday of this week, Lincoln Center Theater morphed into Lincoln Center Film Studios. On the front of the Beaumont stage, and out into the house, spilled lights, cameras, even a piece of equipment with an appropriately nautical name: a jib arm. The occasion was the making of South Pacific's second TV commercial.
The first, which began airing on January 12, focuses on Billis, the Seabees, and the nurses and includes "Nothing Like a Dame." This time, the spotlight fell on Emile and Nellie, especially the "Some Enchanted Evening" lyric, "Once you have found her/Never let her go." According to John Andres, who directed both spots, "The first one emphasizes the fun and high spirits of the show. This one" -- which will begin airing the second half of February on, among other outlets, morning TV talk shows and cable networks like MSNBC -- "is more about the sweep and beauty and romance."
Huddled around the filming's main monitor, which during the shoot also drew the production's director, Bartlett Sher, and Jim Russek, creative director at LCT's ad agency, Serino-Coyne, the pony-tailed Andres said that making commercials for musicals feels almost second nature to him. "My mother and my wife are both performers, so I grew up in this world."
Cast members in the house for the shoot included Kelli O'Hara, Paulo Szot, Loretta Ables Sayre, Andrew Samonsky, Li Jun Li, Laura Marie Duncan, Wendi Bergamini, Becca Ayers, George Merrick, Nick Mayo, and Zachary James. They all got a heavy dose of the difference between working in the theater and working on a film set: waiting for lights to be set. This sometimes interminable process tends to beset theater actors only during tech rehearsals before a show opens.
At least the actors got a chance to interact with the film crew and the advertising guys, and partake of their special brand of humor. Russek gave Szot a slightly different name, suggesting that this Tony-winning performer is from a climate somewhat colder than that of his native Brazil: Paul O'Szot.
Even on St. Patrick's Day, I don't think it will stick.
BRENDAN LEMON is the American theater critic for the Financial Times and the editor of lemonwade.com