Sunday, June 10, 2018

You've Got to Be Carefully Taught

The morning was gloomy and gray when I rolled out of bed. Truth be told, it suited my somewhat romantic and thoughtful mood. I put on the original cast of South Pacific while making blueberry pancakes for breakfast. The runaway Broadway smash of 1949 features stage star Mary Martin as Nellie Forbush, a nurse on a tropical island in World War II who falls for handsome planter Emile de Beque (Enzio Pinza), but has her doubts about the relationship after she meets his children by his late Polynesian wife. Lieutenant Cable (William Tabbert) is also in a relationship with a native, the beautiful Liat (Betta St. John). Both relationships seem doomed to failure, thanks to southerners Cable and Nellie's ingrained prejudice. When Cable and de Beque go on a mission together, only one man makes it back alive...

I put this one on for Cable's pointed solo "You've Got to be Carefully Taught." Hammerstein may not have known much about the military, but he understood prejudice. South Pacific looked kind of dated up until a hit concert in 2006 and a smashing Broadway revival in 2008. Nowadays, it's themes may be more relevant than they were even when the show came out, even if the native characters come off as a bit stereotypical.

I've only heard the original 1949 cast with Pinza and Martin, but I know there's a late 60's recording with Florence Henderson as Nellie, along with the 2006 concert and 2008 revival. I'm not a big fan of the 1958 film with Mitzi Gaynor as Nellie; from what I remember, it's slow, dull, and static.

Work was steady when I arrived. I finished the candy (which a manager had worked on earlier), then did some carts and cleaned up a Gatorade spill. The crowds had increased substantially by around noon, and would remain busy for the rest of the day. The clouds that had been gathering even when I was going to the Acme had finally burst. People didn't have much else to do besides shop. I bagged and rounded up baskets for the rest of the afternoon, except for another manager sending me out to do carts 20 minutes before I finished.

Good thing the rain was lightening up even as I pushed carts up to the patios. By the time I was heading home, it was almost gone. Switched to writing as soon as I got in. Leia, with the help of the magic of the Great Confluence, manages to get Luke's horn back on. Palpatine is about to shoot them both with his force lightning when Yoda appears, stopping his sword and giving Leia and Luke a chance to rescue Han.

It was past 7 when I broke for dinner. Made baked chicken legs with herbs and spices and a cucumber-tomato salad while playing Lego Clone Wars. Now I remember why I gave up on this a while back. I really need the Sith and Bounty Hunter characters to get a lot of the remaining pieces, and I just can't find them. I think they're supposed to be on another ship, but I can't find that, either. I did manage to get one more piece from "Battle of Geonosis," but all I got from "The Hidden Enemy" was a ton of studs.

Finished the night after a shower with two more darker Rogers and Hammerstein musicals. Carousel switches from prejudice to domestic violence. This tragic tale tells of Julie (Jan Clayton), a mill worker in 1873 New England in love with Billy (John Raitt), a carnival barker. They get married, but it goes downhill when Billy learns that Julie's pregnant. He takes part in a robbery that goes wrong and ends with him dead. Julie ends up raising their daughter Louise (Bambi Lynn) alone. He has to return to Earth to try to mend things with both women, before his daughter ends up like him.

While it's a little too dark to be my favorite Rogers and Hammerstein show, it does have it's fans. It's been revived twice on Broadway, including the current production that opened in April. The film version has a similar problem to South Pacific - it's lumbering and a bit dull. I don't know if the current revival's been recorded yet, but I have a studio LP from the 50's with opera stars Robert Merrill and Patrice Munsel as Billy and Julie, and there's the 1994 Broadway revival with Audra Ann MacDonald as Julie's friend Carrie.

Finished the night with The King and I. We move from New England to Thailand (Siam) for this culture clash story. The King of Siam (Farley Granger) has hired British governess Anna Leonowens (Barbara Cook) to educate his many children. She finds the country barbaric at first, especially how he treats his wives and his slaves. While two of the slaves take part in a forbidden love affair, Anna and the King come to develop a relationship of their own. Matters come to a head after one of the slaves is caught trying to escape, and the King learns just how much Anna's democratic beliefs have influenced him.

I have two copies of this show; I opted for the 1960 Lincoln Center cast. It's been revived many times, most recently in 1997 with Donna Murphy and Lou Diamond Phillips as Anna and the King and in 2015 with Kelli O'Hara and Ken Wantanabe as the duo. My 1992 studio CD features a wonderful Julie Andrews as Anna and Ben Kingsley as the King. The film version, with Deborah Kerr and original King Yul Brunner, is my second-favorite Rogers and Hammerstein movie after Oklahoma! 

(And incidentally, it's rained off and on, sometimes heavily, for the rest of the night. It's raining pretty hard now. Hopefully, it'll be gone by the time I have work at 11.)

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