The Opera House – Manchester
By Rogers and Hammerstein
Rogers and Hammerstein were at the height of their collaboration when they penned this magnificent musical. Set during the second world war, South Pacific tells of the racial intolerance that gripped the United States of the 1940’s, and of how love overcomes all.
The song ‘You’ve got to be carefully taught’ is one of the finest examples of how even the early musicals could be gritty and politically challenging, as it opens up the whole question of how racism comes to be the norm in civilized society. Sung by the character Lieutenant Cable, the song is preceded by a lyric sayingracism is “not born in you! It happens after you’re born…”
Indeed, the show itself faced controversy with lawmakers in Georgia (USA) introducing a bill outlawing entertainment containing “an underlying philosophy inspired by Moscow.” One legislator said that “a song justifying interracial marriage was implicitly a threat to the the American way of life.” Rogers and Hammerstein defended their work strongly stating that this number represented why they had wanted to do this play, and that even if it meant the failure of the production, it was going to stay in.
Today the show seems a little slow, and certainly dated, but it is no less enchanting and enthralling now than it must have been back in the 1950’s America, and with racism again showing its ugly head, no less challenging and pertinent either.
Other well known songs from the show include “Bali Ha’i”, “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair”, “Some Enchanted Evening”, “Happy Talk”, “Younger than Springtime” and “I’m in Love with a Wonderful Guy”.
One of the best known songs was the one that went on to become the signature tune of Millicent Martin (mother of Dallas’ JR Ewing, Larry Hagman), “5’2, eyes of blue”.
This performance at the Manchester Palace was an absolute joy, extremely well performed and a very good way to spend an evening out.