I saw the Lincoln Center production of "South Pacific" by Rodgers and Hammerstein on PBS tonight. Or rather this morning. In a triumph of inconvenience, it aired between 1:30 and 5 o'clock this morning. It hasn't been staged on Broadway since it first ran there sixty years ago.
I was surprised by how strange it was to hear somebody other than the cast who sang the original soundtrack even though I had not heard the album since the 1950's. The performances did not seem particularly good, neither the acting nor the singing. But that may be just that the casting suffered by comparison with Mary Martin and Ezio Pinza.
I had forgotten most of the story except that it was about the American forces in the South Pacific during World War II. Even the expression "World War II" and South Pacific seem quaint and historical. I was born a year after Nagasaki, so most of my life the war loomed just over the horizon of memory. But as I have gotten older and the decades passed, that horizon has become further and further away. The events of the war once gave context to every understanding of the world.
That hasn't gone away. Not exactly. But what gives context to the world is no longer the war itself but the situations that arose in the Postwar world as it was called. The creation of Israel, the formation of India and Pakistan and their permanent hostility, the Chinese Revolution, the reconstruction of Japan and Germany, the Cold War, the Civil Rights movement, the European Common Market, the UN, the end of the colonial empires, and on and on, are all the context in which the postwar world evolved into the modern world of the Third Millenium.
It may be that I am tired from being up so late, (it is almost six as I write) but I was surprised that I started to choke up and finally even to cry during "South Pacific". It may also be that it is not only the world that has gotten old. Perhaps these are the beginnings of the unstable emotions of old age.
The musical really does contain a play and the play, though good, is unquestionably a tear-jerker. Which it is my wont to sneer at. At yet I was upset and even cried. Which I would be and am the first to call ridiculous.
I am dozing off even as I write so I will go to bed now.