‘South Pacific’ spans generation gap

This November, the Fabulous Fox will host the classic musical “South Pacific.”  
Although a classic, this 60-year-old show had to take strides in order to stay fresh and appealing to younger crowds.

“I think a lot of people think ‘South Pacific’ is an old corny show,” conductor and music director Lawrence Goldberg said.  “I think that’s only because it’s rarely done with the kind of realistic truth that this production is done with.  This director brought out things in the show that have rarely been brought out.  It’s easily one of the best road shows you will ever see.”

This is certainly a lot for a musical to live up to.  Perhaps part of its charm comes from the huge orchestra that is used in this production.

“This is the largest orchestra I’ve ever had in a traveling show!” Goldberg said.

Twenty-two of the instrumentalists are hired in each city to play with the three traveling musicians.  Musicians are hired in advance, and music is sent two or three weeks in advance.  Goldberg has only a four-and-a-half-hour rehearsal the morning of opening night in each new location.

“I have to trust that they’ve done their homework.  Sometimes we go to smaller cities where the musicians are not that experienced or talented, so it’s tricky,” Goldberg said.

However, these challenges are outweighed by the benefits of the wider range of musical expressivity of the larger orchestra.

“Typically, a keyboard replaces the string section.  This huge amount of people within a section make the music sound alive,” Goldberg said.
Perhaps the production is “one of the best road shows” because of its relevance to society today.

“It’s sixty years old, and it still speaks to us today,” Goldberg said. “The show is important because it speaks to a lot of important issues that we’re dealing with in this country, but it does it in a very engaging and entertaining way, so it’s not preaching.”

Given that we are in two wars, face immigration issues and constantly debate the morality of gay marriage, “South Pacific” would be a valuable experience for any student interested in his or her own development.

“It deals very overtly with race issues and being in love with who you love despite what society might think,” Goldberg said.

Songs like “You’ve Got to be Carefully Taught,” in which one character speaks against prejudice, and “This Nearly was Mine” deals with racism head-on.
Goldberg began his musical journey as a four-year-old taking piano lessons.  His first time conducting was in junior high band, and although his childhood dream was to be Billy Joel, he has instead become a musical director in New York City.  Aside from enjoying musicals like “South Pacific,” Goldberg is also a big ABBA fan.

“But I liked them before they became big again,” he said.

For the past year, he has been traveling around the country with his wife and dog, conducting for “South Pacific.”

Despite the challenges of out-of-suitcase living that touring productions create, Goldberg could not have more fondness for and confidence in the show.

“The audience gets drawn into the ‘South Pacific’ world and the wartime setting that has relevance for us today,” he said. “Our production is anything but corny.”

“South Pacific” will be playing at the Fox from Nov. 9-21.  Student tickets, $25 each, will be available at the box office starting two hours before the show.  This offer is good on all performances of “South Pacific.” For more information visit fabulousfox.com