A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM, opera a cappella now available at Albany Records

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Race is the dilemma the drives the plot in the R&H adaptation of Michener's TALES OF THE SOUTH PACIFIC. Lt. Cable wants to marry Liat, but feels he musn't; Nellie Forbush is shocked when she finds that Emile De Becque has had two children with a Polynesian. Michener's book is quite frank about it:

"But before her were other indisputable facts! Two of them! Emile De Becque, not satisfied with Javanese and Tonkinese women, had also lived with a Polynesian. A nigger! To Nellie's tutored mind any person living or dead who was not white or yellow was a nigger. And beyond that no words could go! Her entire Arkansas upbringing made it impossible for her to deny the teachings of her youth. Emile De Becque had lived with the nigger. He had nigger children. If she married him, they would be her step-daughters."

The good news is that Nellie, like Hawaii, has worked well past this thinking, but one wonders what this does to the contemporary audience for South Pacific. Will they find this part of the plot--this sociocultural dilemma--to be dated?

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