The Satisfaction of South Pacific

May 2, 2022

Rodgers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific has stood the test of time. Not only has it continued to fill theaters and attract a crowd seventy years later, but it has also remained an absolute delight, filled with music that leaves guests humming its tunes for days. 

The story behind South Pacific is captivating. Based on the book by James A. Michener, “Tales of the South Pacific,” South Pacific takes place in the heart of World War II, where soldiers, sailors, nurses, and natives live together on an island which the U.S. is trying to hold from the invading Japanese. Centered around Nellie, an American nurse stationed on the island with the SeaBees, the musical unfolds into the arms of her love interest, Emile de Becque who calls this island his home. A French plantation owner, Becque, steals Nellie’s heart, only to lose it when she discovers that he is the father of two mixed-race children. A single father, Becque has raised the children on the island after their mother, a Tonkinese woman, had passed away several years ago. While the audience follows their story, finding humor and nostalgia with the song, “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Out Of My Hair,” an additional love story weaves into the mix as Liat, the beautiful Polynesian daughter of a clever island huckster, draws the attention of Lt. Cable.

Again we see the opposition of love and hate as Lt. Cable, who is mesmerized by Liat, struggles with his upbringing, which was designed to deter him from falling for a woman that is unlike his own. Audience members should brace themselves for the deeply-rooted song, “You’ve Got To Be Taught to Love and Hate,” which dives into the roots of racism.  

One of the largest musical performances to remain relevant in interpretations and performances by various actors and directors, it can be said that the production of South Pacific holds its weight due to the chemistry and vocals Rodgers and Hammerstein originally designed. Numbers such as “There is Nothin’ Like a Dame,” “Bloody Mary,” “Bali Ha’I (Reprise),” “I’m in Love With a Wonderful Guy,” “Honey Bun,” and so many more are just some of the standout ensemble numbers, which dazzle among the emotionally designed choreography. 

The creativity and flow of South Pacific’s set design are an intricate part of the performance as well. Panoramic blue skies, white-cloud backdrops, and actual water and sand on stage create an island visual that leaves one feeling the tropical breeze in the middle of Central New York’s Spring.  

Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein established something momentous, filled with musical adventure and social consciousness that has ignited a passion among generations. The story, characters, and underlying theme of social acceptance, death, and war depict a tale that has obtained ten Tony Awards and a Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Simply put, South Pacific is a show that’s become aligned with our history, both in art and music and one that you can’t afford to miss.   

Looking for tickets to South Pacific? Log on to, call 315-624-9444, or visit their box office at 258 Genesee Street in Utica. 

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