This past Saturday, after four weeks in the rehearsal room and two weeks of tech, the cast and crew of South Pacific gave a performance -- and then had a bash. The setting was O'Neal's restaurant, across from Lincoln Center. The first preview had just gone off, with barely a hitch, and as he came into the restaurant and ordered a Diet Coke from the bar, Paulo Szot, the show's Emile de Becque, expressed the general mood: "I can't pretend I wasn't a little nervous before going on tonight, but I think things turned out pretty well, yes?"
Had you table-hopped among the group of 100 or so people who chow-hounded the buffet supper topped off by a cake decorated like the show's promotional poster, here are a few fun facts you might also have gobbled up:
-- Eighteen actors, including Szot and Loretta Ables Sayre (Bloody Mary), had just made their Broadway debuts and thirty-six performers had just made their Lincoln Center Theater debuts. (The LCT veterans: Kelli O'Hara, Matthew Morrison, Skipp Sudduth, and Laura Griffith.)
-- The de Leon brothers (Michael and Noel), who had played the juvenile part of Jerome in South Pacific's original Broadway production, had been in the audience that night. Bert Fink of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization subsequently told me that other "original cast members are still alive. They include BarBara Luna, who played Ngana, and Betta St. John, who played Liat."
-- The most voracious reader in the cast may be Helmar Augustus Cooper, who plays Henry and is married to the writer Breena Clarke, whose novel,River, Cross My Heart, was an Oprah's Book Club selection in June, 2000.
-- The first Rodgers & Hammerstein musical that Genson Blimline (the show's Morton Wise) ever saw was, yup, South Pacific. "I was in sixth grade," Blimline said, "and I remember thinking that it was awesome that the two leads had to kiss. Maybe that's when puberty was in full swing."
I stopped scribbling such factoids in my notebook at 12:45 a.m. The supper had started around 11:30, and I departed just before one. With virtually everyone still inside the bustling O'Neals, I felt like the world's Biggest Party Pooper.
BRENDAN LEMON is the American theater critic for the Financial Timesand the editor of lemonwade.com.