19:45, Mon 5th November 2018 - Thu 8th November 2018 at Noël Coward Theatre
Michaelmas Week 5
South Pacific is a musical composed by Richard Rodgers, with lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II and book by Hammerstein and Joshua Logan. The work premiered in 1949 on Broadway and was an immediate success, running for 1,925 performances. The story is based on James A. Michener's Pulitzer Prize-winning 1947 book Tales of the South Pacific, combining elements of several of the stories in that book. Rodgers and Hammerstein believed that they could write a work based on Michener's stories that would be financially successful and, at the same time, send a strong progressive message on racism.
The plot centers on an American nurse stationed at a U.S. Naval base on a South Pacific island during World War II who falls in love with an expatriate French plantation owner but struggles to accept his mixed-race children. A secondary romance, between a U.S. lieutenant and a young Tonkinese woman, explores his fears of the social consequences should he marry his Asian sweetheart. The issue of racial prejudice is candidly explored throughout the musical, most controversially in the lieutenant's song, "You've Got to Be Carefully Taught". Supporting characters, including a comic petty officer and the Tonkinese girl's mother, help to tie the stories together. Due to his lack of knowledge of the military, Hammerstein had difficulty in writing that part of the text; the director of the original production, Logan, assisted him and received credit as co-writer of the book, but Logan always felt that he was underpaid for his contribution.