The 5th Avenue Theatre started the year in style with the touring production of South Pacific, which sailed into Seattle last Friday and will be playing thru February 21. Bartlett Sher, former Artistic Director for Seattle’s Intiman Theatre, directed the Broadway revival of the classic 1949 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical—and won a 2008 Tony for doing so. He chatted with us about how it feels to return to Seattle and share the success of South Pacific with local audiences, as well as some of his inspirations behind the revival, what he still loves about Seattle and why he feels gleeful about former South Pacific star Matthew Morrison.
What attracted you to reviving South Pacific?
I thought that it could be very special to revisit South Pacific now because of the current political atmosphere. The story is centered around a time when there was a unified country and everyone overcame something difficult. On a human level, it’s also a story of how ultimately families can include everyone. It’s really a great, American story.
How is this version of South Pacific perhaps different than one audiences may have seen before?
Previous productions had been cut down to focus on the high points that everyone knows. We took the script a little bit more seriously and put text back in that had been cut so this version deals more in-depth with the issues. We’re also using the original orchestrations so the sound is very close to the original. I think that this South Pacific reclaims all of the entertainment and the value of the original musical and it makes for a powerful and extraordinary evening.
After experiencing such amazing success with South Pacific on Broadway, how does it feel to bring the show to Seattle?
For people who know my work at the Intiman with the American Cycle (where they stage a great American story every year), I feel like South Pacific is an extension of that idea. I like being able to return to Seattle and know that my work will inspire and find a connection with the Seattle audience. For me to come back with South Pacific is really a homecoming and a celebration all in one.
Matthew Morrison was one of the stars of the Broadway production before finding wider fame with the T.V. show Glee. Do you have any worries that people will be disappointed that he’s not performing with the touring company?
(Laughter). No, I’m not worried because everyone in this production is great. I’m absolutely thrilled that Matthew has achieved so much success. He’s now ruling the world and there is no reason from him to come down from the lofty heights of his accomplishments to show up here for this show. It was great to work with him and I love Glee and wish him fantastic things.
Whenever you’re back in Seattle, what are some your favorite things to do or places to visit?
I love eating at Dahlia Lounge and my favorite bookstore is Peter Miller Books. One of the biggest things is that my daughter was born and raised in Seattle so it’s important to bring her so that she can see her friends.
-Posted by Deanna Duff