At the upstairs entrance to the Vivian Beaumont sits the merchandise booth. Like the mini-shops of almost all Broadway shows, it sells CD recordings of the production-in-question, as well as books. Unlike the booths of other musicals, it is decorated with beads and coconut shells, thanks to the help ofSouth Pacific's properties coordinator, Kathy Fabian. But, starting just the other day, the shop now features something even more unusual still: a silk scarf.
This item, which features artist James McMullan's poster art for South Pacific, grew out of LCT artistic director Andre Bishop's interest in an aspect of the show's 1949 production. It turns out that there were thirteen scarves offered to commemorate aspects of the story; one of them, for example, was inspired by the song "Bali Ha'i." Mary Martin, the original Nellie Forbush, was the spokesperson for the line, which was sold at department stores like Macy's.
Bishop and LCT marketing director Linda Mason Ross worked with Matt Murphy, whose company, Marquee Merchandise, oversees the Vivian Beaumont merchandise booth, to come up with a scarf for current South Pacific fans. "Our challenge," said Murphy, "was to get a silk scarf printed at a reasonable cost. Philip Rinaldi [LCT's general press agent] hooked us up with a company called Jet Rich Apparel, which had a connection in China. TheSouth Pacific scarf was made there. It was a three-month process that involved sending the artwork, computer proofs, samples, color correction, and other things. We're thrilled with how the scarf turned out."
The scarf, like other South Pacific merchandise, is available not just at the Beaumont booth but on this website. It joins the many other clothing items here, in particular the t-shirts: the most popular is the one saying "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair," which to Murphy reflects that fact that about 65 percent of the merchandise buyers are women.
Murphy added that there will soon be another available item: beach towels, which like the scarf will feature the McMullan poster art. "I'm sure that will be a strong seller," he said. "When you have a show that people know about and love as much as they do South Pacific, sometimes the merchandise almost sells itself."
BRENDAN LEMON is the American theater critic for the Financial Timesand the editor of lemonwade.com