Tony Award Winners: South Pacific (1950)

3 Mar

south pacific


South Pacific is one of those musicals that deservedly won the Tony, that leaves me a bit cold, and I feel a little guilty about it.   The musical certainly had a huge impact–in fact, even if you’ve never heard of this musical, or Rogers and Hammerstein, you know half the songs already.   Some Enchanted Evening, I’m Gonna Wash that Man Right Out of my Hair, I’m in Love with a Wonderful Guy, are just the more notable selections.   There’s one song that I unabashedly love–Balai Hai–a wonderfully exotic beautiful tune that just floats upon mystery and wonder.

The rest though–well, they’re very much the music that you could listen to with your grandmother.   Everything is very bland and very schmaltzy, almost as if they were written for Lawrence Welk shows for decades to come.   I think there’s a law that Some Enchanted Evening has to be played once an hour on any channel that calls itself “the world’s most beautiful music.”

And this is coming from someone who really can appreciate Rogers and Hammerstein.  I love Oklahoma and I think the Sound of Music is perfect for Christmas.   However, it’s almost as if in order to be able to handle a touchy subject like racism (in 1950!) they have to make all the songs so bathetic and drenched with schmaltz that they almost undo their own message.   Also, Mary Martin’s songs are so gosh darned perky, they really detract from what other emotions the music was supposed to bring about.

So I feel mixed.  Should it have won the Tony–yes!  Do I disrespect the people who adore this–no!    However, I just can’t bring myself to love this work, for all of that.

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