To the Editor:
I recently read Nelson Pressley's most interesting article "An Era's Bias, Cast in Bali Ha'i Relief," published in the Dec. 15 Arts section. In it he states, " 'South Pacific' hasn't had a Broadway revival in the past decade -- or in fact any Broadway revival since the original production." On the contrary, a major production of "South Pacific" appeared at the Music Theatre of Lincoln Center during the Lincoln Center Festival in 1967. It starred Florence Henderson as Nellie and the great baritone of the Metropolitan Opera, Giorgio Tozzi, as Emile de Becque.
It was a stunning production in which Richard Rodgers was quite involved. In fact, because Eleanor Calbes, who was cast as Liat, had such a wonderful voice, Rodgers put in a reprise of "Bali Ha'i" for her following Lt. Cable's exit upon singing "Younger Than Springtime." She sang the reprise, alone onstage, looking off to the volcano, with thousands of flower petals floating down from the loft. Breathtaking.
To the Editor:
In Nelson Pressley's intriguing article on the musical "South Pacific," he says that "the way Nellie blanches at Emile de Becque's mixed-race kids can be frankly off-putting to modern audiences." Interestingly, it was Emile's lack of candor and not Nellie's racism that was targeted during a discussion in line for the ladies' room during intermission on opening night.
Although Emile admits to killing a man, he neglects to mention the previous relationship until confronting Nellie with the two children -- with maximum dramatic effect, of course -- after courting her.
"He should have told her sooner," one patron commented. So, yes, Nellie responds to the children with the ugliness of learned bigotry, which she acknowledges when coaching Lt. Cable to explain ("You've Got to Be Carefully Taught") and which she eventually overcomes. However, contributing to her initial reaction might be qualms about Emile's character -- what else has he (oops) forgotten to mention? -- as well as the realities of dealing with a ready-made family, regardless of ancestry.
Letters should be sent to: Arts Editor, Style Section, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. E-mail should be sent to Arts@washpost.com. Please include daytime and nighttime phone numbers and an address. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.