“Rub Him Outta the Role Call, and Drum Him Outta Your Dreams”

South Pacific

My high school performed this Rodgers and Hammerstein show my junior year. My friend from church, Chelsea was the lead. I was once again simply in the ensemble as a nurse. The show is set on a South Pacific island during World War II (there was a remake in 2001 starring Glenn Close and Harry Connick Jr, and a special concert at Carnegie Hall starring Reba McEntire in 2005 [which was, ironically, the year my high school performed]). Marine lieutenant Joe Cable comes to go on a secret mission to spy on the nearby Japanese and wants local French planter Emile de Becque to help. Emile has also fallen in love with a Navy nurse on the island, Nellie Forbush. Local woman, known as Bloody Mary likes how handsome Cable is and decides he is right to marry her daughter, Liat.

The naval personnel stationed on the island, the “Seabees” start off singing about Bloody Mary, then remark There is Nothin’ Like a Dame (gotta say, love the deep, full tone the men’s chorus achieves.  Ironically, we sang this at a county choir performance the same year). Nellie and the other nurses run by and we find out that sailor Luther Billis runs several side jobs to help people out. This is when Bloody Mary spots Lt. Cable and tells him about Bali Ha’i. From there, we check on Emile and Nellie at Emile’s plantation. Nellie turns out to be a Cock-Eyed Optimist. Both worry that they are not right for the other, but in just a few weeks they have fallen in love. Emile is certain and remarks in Some Enchanted Evening (the most well known song from the show) “once you have found her, never let her go.” Nellie returns to base and Emile’s children come out to see their papa and sing a little French song, Dites Moi.

Lt. Cable has spoken to command and they call in Nellie to ask her questions about Emile, determining whether he is reliable to take Joe to the other island. It is on record that Emile killed a man back in France. This concerns Nellie and she remarks to her friends, I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair. Unbeknownst to her, Emile has come by; she’s startled out of her dance and rinses her hair to speak to him. He has come to invite her back to his plantation for a party and to tell her more about himself. The man he killed in France was a bully, during a bar fight. Then he asks Nellie to marry him. Relieved and ecstatic, Nellie has changed her tune, I’m in Love with a Wonderful Guy. But when Emile meets with command, he declines the mission, not wanting to risk his future with Nellie.

gonna wash that man right outta my hair

Frustrated, Cable lets Billis take him to Bali Ha’i. Billis observes the famous boar’s tooth ceremony and Bloody Mary introduces Joe to Liat and he instantly falls in love with the girl who is Younger Than Springtime. He sadly has to leave (after they spend some time together). And after Emile’s party, Nellie finds out about his children and runs off when she realizes he had Polynesian wife before her (I don’t quite get that thinking, but I also wasn’t around during the forties and fifties).

The second half of the show returns to Bali Ha’i and Bloody Mary explains Happy Talk and how fine of a husband Joe Cable will make for Liat. But he won’t abandon his fiancée in Philadelphia. Now Liat will have to marry an older French plantation owner. We’re cheered up a bit by the Thanksgiving show that Nellie puts on. Honey Bun is a fun number, with Luther Billis. Emile has come to see the show and sent Nellie flowers, but when he talks to her, she can’t explain why she is so upset about his previous wife and she runs off. Joe remarks to the Frenchman You’ve Got to be Carefully Taught, about racism, which he is struggling with in regards to Liat. But he’s come to the decision that he won’t leave Liat, except it’s time to go on the mission and Emile has agreed, now that Nellie has broken his heart; This Nearly Was Mine.

They land safely and get word back to base about the Japanese’s movements. Nellie finds out that Emile went and her heart decides that she does love him. Sadly, Joe dies on the island (enemy fire) and Emile gets the last news out; the Japanese are pulling out and will be the perfect target. So all the Marines and seamen and nurses gather up to leave. Nellie is with Emile’s children and listen to their reprise of Dites-Moi when Emile walks in. At least one story ended happy.

I have fairly fond memories of performing; one of my classmates asked my brother (on break from a military college) for help. I was still put in horrible costumes, but I enjoyed the group performances. Watching the movie again, the filters are horrible. Some of the music is still good, but I’m not fond of the storyline between Joe and Liat; it’s too sudden. And they know nothing about each other. So, not a favorite.

Next Time: Brigadoon (which is a favorite)

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