At Winthrop House April 23, 24, 25, 29 and May 1, 2
It might have been funny, it might have been rousing, it might have been all touching and goose pimply. It might just have been bright and bromidic, or normal as blueberry pie.
It was none of the above. Gosh O jiminy I hate to say it, but the Winthrop House Musical is 20 or 80 times as corney as Kansas in August. It drags.
Not even the cast has a good time. The nurses seem embarrassed at all that flesh showing, the sailors droop barrel-chested across the stage, the officers prance and posture like stiff marionettes, everybody has lousy posture. The production wallows in that bumbly amateurishness of the parents' weekend extravaganza at your kid sister's summer camp. Come to thin of it, didn't they do South Pacific there last summer? Or the summer before?
After fifteen years it's some sappy show. One mustn't be too hard on Nellie Forbush for having trouble with lines like "You just told me you killed a man and it's all right. I hardly know you, yet I know it's all right" or "It isn't as if I cold give you a good reason, Emile. This is emotional." But one might wish that Myra Nassau acted more like Mary Martin and less like Martha Raye, that Dean Stolber (De Becque) were not made up to look like an escaped convict, and that both of them would stop registering true love as if it were midway between terror and disgust.
If only Peter Skolnick (who directed this disaster) had injected some buoyancy, some life, some fun, some chutzpah-he could have saved the whole shebang. Then, what the hell, we wouldn't have cared about the squeaky horns, cracking tenors, dump jokes, flickering spotlights, missed cues. We wouldn't have minded when an actor got stuck in the safety-pinned curtain, or when another knocked over a teapot. Oh for goodness sake-even a little filth would have helped.
The program tells us that South Pacific provides "ample opportunities for book-weary students to unwind." Well, so why didn't they unwind? How come they slouched through two and a half hours as if the performance were a second run through? How come they had no timing, no pace, no zest? The kindest answer is that the show needs works (South Pacific's been afflicted with almost as many unforeseen difficulties as Cleopatra) and there can be no doubt that next weekend, when the cast feels more secure, it will be a damn sight more entertaining.
Even as it stands there are moments; Liat looking shy and beautiful; Steve Cotler (Billis) shouting orders like a half-pint Sergeant Bilko; Jeanne Klein, a freshman Cliffie, reincarnating Bloody Mary; a chaotic chorus-line finale to "Wonderful Guy"; a lovely, half-drunk kiss between Nellie and Emile; Stolber singing "This Nearly Was Mine." But then there always are moments, and last night they were few and awfully far between.
Unfortunately, though, there are enough to keep us from recommending South Pacific to the Camp contingent on the grounds that "it's so bad it's terrific." It's not quite that bad. Most of the time you just sit there praying no one will knock over the set.