South Pacific is a musical composed by Richard Rodgers, with lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II and book by Hammerstein and Joshua Logan. The work, which premiered April 7, 1949 at Broadway's Majestic Theatre, is based on James A. Michener's Pulitzer Prize-winning 1947 book Tales of the South Pacific, combining elements of several of the stories in that book. Rodgers and Hammerstein believed that they could write a work based on Michener's stories that would be financially successful and, at the same time, send a strong social message on racism. Due to his lack of knowledge of the military, Hammerstein had difficulty in writing some details of the text; the director of the original production, Logan, assisted him and received credit as co-writer of the book, for which Logan always felt he was underpaid.
The plot centers on an American nurse stationed at a U.S. Naval base on a South Pacific island during World War II who falls in love with an expatriate French plantation owner but struggles to accept his mixed-race children. A second romance, between a U.S. lieutenant and a young Tonkinese woman, explores his fears of the social consequences should he wed his Asian sweetheart. The issue of racial prejudice is candidly explored throughout the musical, most controversially in the lieutenant's song, "You've Got to Be Carefully Taught." Supporting characters, including a comic petty officer and the Tonkinese girl's mother, tie the stories together.
The musical opened on Broadway on April 7, 1949 and was an immense critical and box-office hit, enjoying what was then the second-longest Broadway run for a musical, and has remained popular ever since. The writers were able to sign Ezio Pinza and Mary Martin as the leads, and wrote several of the songs with them in mind. The piece won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1950. Its racial themes provoked controversy, especially in the Southern U.S., for which its authors were unapologetic. Several of its songs, including "Bali Ha'i," "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair," "Some Enchanted Evening," "Happy Talk," "Younger Than Springtime" and "I'm in Love with a Wonderful Guy," have become popular standards.
The original Broadway production won ten Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Score and Best Libretto, and it is the only musical production to win Tony Awards in all four acting categories. The show has since enjoyed many successful revivals and tours, spawning a 1958 film and other adaptations. The 2008 Broadway revival was a strong success, winning seven Tony Awards including Best Musical Revival.
Adapted from Wikipedia