Musical Soundtrack

Rodgers & Hammerstein’s
South Pacific
In Concert From Carnegie Hall

Music By: Richard Rodgers

Lyrics By:  Oscar Hammerstein II

Produced By: Decca Broadway


Reviewed by Melissa Minners


            The musical, South Pacific, was created by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II in 1949, inspired by the novel Tales of the South Pacific by James A. Michener.  The musical is set in the Pacific stage of World War II and tells the story of a Navy ensign who meets and falls in love with a French planter.  Although South Pacific is an extremely popular musical, it is rarely revived.  In June, 2005, a special one night benefit performance of South Pacific took place at Carnegie Hall, starring Reba McEntire, Brian Stokes Mitchell, and Alec Baldwin.  The concert was aired in its entirety on PBS and the soundtrack released by Decca Broadway on April, 2006.

            When I was first asked to review this soundtrack, I believe I let out a groan.  It’s not that I dislike musicals.  It’s simply because I thought that South Pacific was such an old piece.  That and take a look at the cast.  Reba McEntire’s name is synonymous with country music, not Broadway musicals – although she did receive critical acclaim for her role in Annie Get Your Gun.  Alec Baldwin?  I don’t know about you, but I for one don’t associate the name Baldwin with musicals.  So, it was with much skepticism that I popped this CD into the player.

            Surprisingly enough, I enjoyed it immensely!  Reba McEntire is terrific as Navy Ensign Nellie Forbush, bringing a bit of spunk to the character.  As French planter Emile de Becque, Brian Stokes Mitchell’s voice is rich and strong, though maybe just a tad overpowering when placed alongside Reba’s Nellie.  Alec Baldwin does an admirable job as an enlisted man who is introduced to an island beauty who just happens to be the daughter of the island “good-time girl” Bloody Mary.  Lillias White’s portrayal of Bloody Mary is nothing short of amazing.  Her vocals are incredibly strong and listening to White in her role, you can actually picture the beautiful exotic island woman she is portraying.  Add to that the incredible sound of the 45-piece Orchestra of St. Luke’s and the vocals of a 51-member ensemble.

            Although the musical itself is a love story in the midst of a war, you are never bogged down with a bunch of mushy love songs or sorrowful tragedy.  There is a great deal of levity and comedic moments that bring a fun atmosphere to this musical.  It was a treat to hear the many classics that came from this musical such as Some Enchanted Evening, I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair  and You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught, as performed by this new cast.  The soundtrack contains the musical in its entirety, both the songs and the speaking lines as well, so you never miss a moment.  Closing your eyes, you can imagine the musical taking place right in front of you.

            Rodgers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific: In Concert From Carnegie Hall is every bit the enjoyable musical it has been toted to be.  The selection of Reba McEntire to play the lead in this rendition of the musical was brilliant.  She brings a spunk and charm to the performance that adds a note of originality to the revival.  It’s as if this is not a timeless classic, but rather, a newly constructed masterpiece.  Fans of the original musical will not be disappointed.  Fans of musicals in general should rush out to get a hold of this album.  Rodgers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific: In Concert From Carnegie Hall is definitely a keeper!


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