Skip to main content Skip to footer site map



South Pacific 70 years later

Broadway Local
Broadway Star
joined:12/8/05
Broadway Star
joined:
12/8/05
South Pacific 70 years later#1
Posted: 4/7/19 at 11:04am

Seventy years ago today, April 7, 1949, SOUTH PACIFIC opened on Broadway, and quickly became the HAMILTON of its day.  This weekend, I saw my umpteenth regional production of the show out on Long Island, and was struck by how the casual racism of Nellie Forbush and Lt. Cable still stings all those decades later.  For instance, Nellie worries about marrying Emile because he has Polynesian children, and Joe Cable fears what the neighbors back on the Main Line will say about Bloody Mary's brown-skinned daughter.  So when I got home, I Googled the lyrics of "You've Got To Be Carefully Taught."

You've got to be taught to be afraid,
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a different shade.
You've got to be carefully taught.

And then on YouTube I found this clip of Oscar Hammerstein explaining the song, and William Tabbert singing it, with Richard Rodgers on piano.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AAls_gUhlQw

Turns out, Rodgers and Hammerstein were counseled repeatedly to remove the song, which was said to be too controversial for a musical.  But they refused to take it out.  In fact, James Michener, who wrote the book that the show was based on, later said that "this number represented why they had wanted to do this play, and that even if it meant the failure of the production, it was going to stay in."

O-ho the Wells Fargo wagon is a-comin' down the street.
Oh please let it be for me!