When I grow up I want to be Bernadette Peters. Really. I’ve wanted to be her since 1984 and I saw “Sunday in the Park With George” (also starring one of the loves of my life, Mandy Patinkin). Wait. I take that back. Ever since I saw her on the Carol Burnett Show in the 70’s, I’ve wanted to be Bernadette Peters. But now that desire is stronger than ever since I’ve seen her in Sondheim’s “A Little Night Music”.
Peters, along with the phenomenal Elaine Stritch, play mother and daughter each seeking something new. They took over the roles from the Tony award-winning Catherine Zeta Jones and the multi-award winning Broadway legend Angela Lansbury (this show I unfortunately did not get to see). The new additions are magic on stage. No one. I repeat. No one sings Sondheim like Bernadette Peters. It is a journey in sound and sight that stays with you for the rest of your life. It is a privilege to see her perform.
The renowned Elaine Stritch is a bit shaky in spots, but her unshakeable commitment to the performance cannot be unraveled. Literally wheeled out in a wheelchair, Stritch’s comic timing is spot on. TV viewers know her as Alec Baldwin’s acerbic mother on 30 Rock. But the legendary Broadway icon shines in her Tony-winning one woman show – Elaine Stritch At Liberty. Netflix it. It’s wonderful.
Go see this revival that’s been revived by these truly talented additions. It’s musical theater at its finest. It’s Sondheim. It’s just good.
A visit to the theater is a quintessential New York City experience – at least for some…well, let’s say at least for me. And when I am lucky enough to score a ticket to a Tony award-winning revival before it ends its record-breaking run, I think that maybe for once the fates are on my side – which hardly ever happens.
South Pacific at Lincoln Center (another quintessential piece of New York City) is truly worth every Tony it won. There hasn’t been a revival of this Rogers & Hammerstein show for forty years. Probably because of the racially driven undertones combined with a war setting – not the normal happy-go-lucky musical. But I think it was waiting for the director Bartlett Sher to come along and add his special sensibility. The storytelling is stellar. Some think musicals lack story, but South Pacific – at least this production of South Pacific – manages to weave all stories in a concise and easy to understand manner. It lacks the usual “now let me break into a song to tell you how I feel” type of staging. But let me be absolutely honest…I have a soft spot for musicals, particularly Rogers & Hammerstein musicals so I can’t be completely impartial.
The stage design is innovative and packs a punch. It is the beach of the small island, complete with a view of Bali Hai in the distance. The cast is simply…perfect from the cock-eyed optimist Nellie (Kelli O’Hara) to the terribly sexy with a voice to die for Emile de Becque (my new crush the Brazilian hottie Paulo Szot) to the wonderful Bloody Mary (Loretta Ables Sayre) and the cowardly lion-esque Luther Billis (Danny Burstein). All unforgettable.
I don’t want to give away too much. The show is now on tour. If it comes to your town – go see it. Take your friends. Take your kids. Although it is set in the 1940’s the show is still relevant today, perhaps even more so. But don’t worry – it still has a happy ending.