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May 25, 2008


Peter Dykema

Hunting? Whatever. Here's my final analysis. The musical is a love story that touches upon issues of prejudice. The entire "war" aspect of the musical is dealt with in almost cryptic fashion. The musical runs about 3 hours and 10 minutes from opening orchestral note to curtain call (including intermission). De Becque decides to join Cable's mission about 2 1/2 hours in. We then get the scene where Brackett yells at Billis, and the very next scene is TWO WEEKS LATER when Cable dies and de Becque may have been killed (we're supposed to fear his death: Nellie certainly does). It should be an emotional scene but is very hurried in both the original script and the movie version. Five minutes later, Operation Alligator is under way and the whole situation of the South Pacific has changed. The Americans are "going the other way." It all unfolds and wraps up too quickly. Bottom line: the story is first a love story, second a commentary on prejudice, and only third a story about WWII, and even then, it's told from the perspective of a bunch of bored Seabees who feel very far from the action. Heck, even Capt. Brackett's final line is "I'm no longer a lousy island commander." I do agree with Frank Warner that some of the scenes are shockingly devoid of "freedom" language. But, in the end, the story could have been set on "Gilligan's Island" as much as on an island during WW II, that's how tertiary the war really is to the plotline.

Frank Warner

It's true. The war almost isn't there, except as an excuse to kill Lt. Cable.

But I wonder what the authors' intent was in depicting several American officers who clearly had no idea what they were fighting for, and weren't even sure a U.S. victory would be better than a Japanese victory.

I suppose it's the old "futility of war" theme, but ask any dictator who wins a war; it wasn't futile for him.

Nick Funnell

Funny how the potential to leave his two kids orphaned never comes into the equation. This strikes us as shocking in todays child-centred world...

Frank Warner

Good point, Nick. Why no, "Hey, I've got two kids who count on me"?

Further evidence of some sloppy script writing.


Remember....musical theatre was in its embryonic stages when this was originally done and still being developed. Look at Carousel and that dark story dealing with domestic violence, and single parenthood. They had Billy, in that show about to rob someone and at the beginning of the 2nd Act he's lying on his wives lap at a picnic before the crime? Make! We've come a long way since then and with many writers that are prone to details and character development. Yes, South Pacific has some of R & H most memorable music, yes the script has flaws, but when you leave the theatre were you entertained? I"d let Bali Hai call me anytime.

Frank Warner

As I've said, I like "South Pacific." It's just hard to believe that, for the number of times that script had to be written and rewritten, someone didn't clarify a few central themes.

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