September 11-20 1997. Sandfield Theatre Presented by Nottinghamshire Education Theatre Company. Second major musical production by the team who gave us Guys and Dolls in 1996! Production Notes; Forty years ago this month President Eisenhower ordered 1,000 Federal paratroopers to escort nine black students safely to the Central High School in Little Rock in Arkansas. It was a major milestone in the civil rights movement in post-war America. Eight years before in 1949 Oscar Hammerstein II and Josh Logan had chosen Little Rock as the epitome of small-town and small-minded America to be the hometown for the central character, Nellie Forbush. As the fourth collaboration between composer Richard Rodgers and lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II, which included the folk operettas of Oklahoma! and Carousel, South Pacific confronted serious and very controversial issues and moved towards greater realism in musical theatre. They found the idea of large numbers of people from different ages, classes, creeds and colours thrown together far away from home with the threat of death in war ever-present, a fascinating opportunity to question and explore ideas of fairness, equality and the nature of freedom. It is not Emile's age or his past which Nellie has to come to terms with but the fact that he married and has children by a woman of a different race. Just as the young, well-educated Lt Cable sees marriage to Bloody-Mary's daughter, Liat, as impossible despite his close relationship with her. Quick to realise his ill-founded prejudice, it is Cable who tells us in You've Got To Be Carefully Taught the central moral of the piece. Neither must we forget amidst all the famous songs and the love story, that Emile De Becque represents a man of considerable principle who, like Prospero in the Tempest, runs away to an idyllic island with his books, but must eventually confront the hard reality of the world. In the same way, America could no longer avoid involvement in the Second World War after Pearl Harbour in 1941. The comedy of the piece is left largely to Luther Billis and Bloody-Mary, character types that we have enjoyed in the theatre for centuries. The low-ranking, but clever, wheeler-dealer opportunist in the midst of a war can be enjoyed in Hasek's "Soldier Svejk" and, of course, Sergeant Bilko. The most famous indomitable female camp-follower, making money from the soldiers and with a daughter in tow, like Bloody-Mary, is Bertolt Brecht's "Mother Courage". Beyond the message and the meaning is the music. In this show are some of the most memorable numbers ever to be written in musical theatre and you are sure to leave Sandfield humming one of them. We began rehearsals just after the Nottinghamshire Summer Festival of the Arts in Education and have sweated through the tropical heat of August to put the show together - we hope you enjoy it.
Alistair Conquer, Steve Parry, Sarah Dudley, Phil Smith, Lucia Hogg/ Helen Davies
NET & Brassery