See South Pacific Before It Closes


South Pacific is closing on August 22nd, and it’s a crying shame. The show is still vibrant, the actors are in top form, and the audience cheers several times during the performance.

What’s it like for an actor at the end of a long run, and what comes next? I asked Danny Burstein, the brilliant actor whose portrayal of Luther Billis very nearly steals the show. Burstein is that rare actor who’s so well respected in the business, he always works, and never has to worry where his next job will come from; still, it’s not easy to leave a hit.

“When a show closes after a long run, it is always bittersweet,” explains Burstein. “There are always mixed feelings. For one, you’ll miss the hard work, the friendship and, let’s face it, the steady paycheck. But staying in a long run can limit one artistically, so moving on can be dangerous, but also liberating. As an artist you’re always looking to stretch your muscles in new ways and closing a show after a long run helps you move forward and prevent those artistic muscles from atrophying.

“As I look back on my two and a half years with South Pacific, I’ll remember all the good times and treasure them dearly. It was a wonderful experience. It changed my life and gave me opportunities I hadn’t experienced before. I am so grateful for the time we had and honored to be a part of the work that we did.”

What can fans of this popular actor look forward to? “Next up for me is a musical adaptation of Pedro Almodovar’s film, Women On the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. The score is by David Yazbeck and the book is by Jeffrey Lane. That will be opening at the Belasco in the Fall. I start rehearsal the day after we close South Pacific. Who needs sleep?”

This Luther Billis will live on in my heart; in fact, the best thing about this production is that for the length of the performance, we are transported to another world and another time, peopled with characters we come to cherish. The atmosphere is all enveloping, through the mystical Bali Ha’i which appears and disappears in the distance, the realistic “Flamin’ Mamie” aircraft which is wheeled onstage, and the believably butch male chorus of Seabees. And the orchestra, oh the orchestra, full and lush and absolutely sublime.

The actors are simply superb. This is the first time I’ve seen Paulo Szot play Emile de Becque, and he is perfect. Of course, the voice is magnificent, but I was truly impressed by what a fine actor he is. He brings a humor and warmth to the role which makes it easy to believe that he and his American nurse really can have a happy life together.

Laura Osnes and Szot have a chemistry that crackles. Osnes has always been adorable as Nellie Forbush, but her performance has gained real depth throughout the run. This petite dynamo has a bright future ahead, and will look back fondly at her time on the boards at the Beaumont.

“I will certainly be very sad to say good-bye to Nellie. Her complexity has kept me challenged, artistically satisfied, and smiling for over 450 performances. I have a beautiful cast in a beautiful show at a beautiful theater… I couldn’t have asked for a more fulfilling journey in the South Pacific,” she thoughtfully reflects.

“I’ll get about two months off before I start work on Frank Wildhorn’s Bonnie and Clyde this fall. I originated the role of Bonnie Parker in the world premiere of this new musical last November at La Jolla Playhouse. The show is doing one more regional run at Asolo Repertory Theater in Florida this November, then hoping to come to Broadway in the Spring of 2011.”

I’ve become a fan, and can’t wait for the next chapter in the career of this Broadway Baby.

There will be a Live From Lincoln Center performance for TV on August 18th, and there are even rumors of a new and grittier South Pacific movie on the horizon. But nothing can rival the excitement of experiencing a real theater performance, with flesh and blood actors, live on the stage.

My companion, seeing the show for the first time, summed it up best. “This should run forever,” she said. “It’s good for the City, good for the tourists, good for the Country.”

Don’t miss your chance to see or revisit this great show. It’s a hundred and one pounds of fun, and so much more.

South Pacific
Lincoln Center Theater at the Vivian Beaumont
150 West 65th Street
212-239-6200Michall Jeffers is an accomplished Cultural Journalist. She writes extensively, both in print and online. Her eponymous cable TV show is syndicated throughout the tri-state area, and features celebrity interviews, reviews, and commentary. She is a voting member of Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, American Theatre Critics Association, International Association of Theatre Critics, Dance Critics Association, and National Book Critics Circle.

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