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South Pacific: A Musical

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by Kat Parr Mackintosh (subscribe)
Young and coffee in varying degrees, Kat also says stuff @ThoroughlyMode
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There is nothing like a dame, nothing in the world. There is nothing you can name that is anything like a dame. Especially not if you're living in a naval base on a remote island in the South Pacific during the Second World War and there aren't that many dames around Far less true words than these have been put to music and staged in a musical format. Which is why these two lines from the musical South Pacific are so memorable.

Lots of musicals have won a slew of Tony Awards that's what musicals are all aiming for but I can't think of any other musicals that have won a Pulitzer Prize for Drama. South Pacific won in 1950, when the earliest production was staged, along with ten Tony awards. And while Pulitzer Prizes are given for a number of reasons, one of the main reasons that this musical was considered so deserving is that it deals compassionately, sensitively and yet candidly with the issue of racial prejudice. Yet still manages to be humorous, entertaining and song worthy.

There is nothing like a dame
There is nothing like a dame
The story surrounds a dame, a nurse to be more specific, living on this naval base, who falls in love with an ex-pat French farmer with a dark past and mixed race children. This musical is more complicated than many others, it has several narrative strands, and another follows the other side of the inter-racial love story: an American sailor who falls in love with a Polynesian woman, whom he refuses to marry because of her race. So there's a lot going on, but not so much that there's not time for a spot of cross dressing and to sing about washing men out of one's hair, another ingeniously true way of putting things.

Still nothing like a dame
Still nothing like a dame
The fact that South Pacific is based on a Pulitzer Prize winning book: Tales of the South Pacific, may also have had something to do with the award. But it was the well known genius of Richard Rogers (on the score) and Oscar Hammerstein II (on the libretto), who are probably responsible for about a quarter of all the awards this musical has received. Ever.

This new production, going into the Barbican this summer, comes from New York's Lincoln Centre Theatre, where it won seven Tony awards of its own in 2008 and has been sold out there for about two years straight. It's got a cast of 40 and an orchestra of 25, and some gorgeous costumes. As well as the challenging, yet rewarding storyline and some of the best music of any musical. Ever.

Sometimes there's nothing like no dames
Sometimes there's nothing like no dames

South Pacific at the Barbican will open on the 15th of August and close on the 1st of October, so that's not much time to see it. However from there the show will embark on a UK tour, finishing up at the Barbican where it started sometime in 2012. So hold that thought if you're not around this autumn.
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Why? There is nothing like a Pulitzer Prize winning musical
When: Monday - Saturday 7:30, Saturday Matinees 2:30
Where: Barbican Centre, Silk St, City of London, EC2Y 8DS, nearest station Barbican
Cost: 15 - 85
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