In the New York Times this morning, Frank Rich has a lovely op-ed seeing the vintage musical South Pacific through the eyes of a modern audience on Memorial Day. He calls the clamor for tickets to the musical's revival, "surely the most unexpected cultural sensation the city has experienced in a while," with some spending up to $1,000 for the $120 ticket.
Why? The show has not only withstood the test of time, but has become again relevant. Rich muses that even during the broad musical numbers, the subject matter shines through. Audiences are forced to contemplate Iraq, remember those whose memory we honor tomorrow — even the racial conflicts depicted still feel alive.
He says, “South Pacific isn’t prowar or antiwar. But it makes you think about the costs." Maybe now is the window when the show is most relevant. He says maybe audiences want, "to glom onto an earlier America’s noble mission because we, unlike 'the greatest generation,' had none of our own. The real South Pacific returns us to the war as its contemporaries saw it, when the wounds were too raw to be healed by sentiment."
He concludes beautifully:
And so as we watch that family gather at the end of South Pacific, both their future and their country’s destiny yet to be written, we weep for the same reason we often do when we experience a catharsis at the theater. We grieve deeply for our losses and our failings, even as we feel an undertow of cockeyed optimism about the possibilities of healing and redemption that may yet lie ahead.
Whether watching an old musical tomorrow, or barbecuing with friends, here's to remembering our losses and embracing hope for the future. Tomorrow at 3 p.m. is the National Moment For Remembrance — pause then for a moment and remember.