We got sunlight on the sand
We got moonlight on the sea
We got mangoes and bananasYou can pick right off the tree
We got volleyball and ping-pong
And a lot of dandy games
What ain’t we got?
We ain’t got dames
Ever since I was a child I’ve heard my father sing the opening lines from "South Pacific’s" "There is Nothin’ Like A Dame." So when I saw the ad for a new production of it at Lincoln Center, I knew it would be the perfect gift for Fathers Day.
I’m not a big fan of musicals and had no idea what "South Pacific" was about. My Husband said it was sort of the World War II version of "Miss Saigon." That didn’t bode well. I hated "Miss Saigon." A man I dated many years ago who took me to see it on Broadway and it was akin to a root canal. I just couldn’t get past the politics. Instead of bravery and romance I saw cowardice and betrayal. I vented before, during and after to show. Suffice it to say, there weren’t many more dates after that.
I held out hope that "South Pacific" would be better than "Miss Saigon." Many years ago, since my Dad enjoys bag pipe music I surprised him with tickets to Madison Square Garden to see The Black Watch. My plan was to grin and bear it, but I ended up thoroughly enjoying myself.
This happened again when I took my then four-year-old niece, to see "The Little Mermaid on Ice" at Radio City Music Hall. I thought I’d be bored out of my mind. Instead, I was enthralled, and then distressed went my niece had to go to the bathroom in the middle of Act I. "Can’t you hold it?" I whined. Forget Ariel and Sebastian. I didn’t want to miss Ursula singing "Poor Unfortunate Souls." She appealed to my whimsical dark side.
Any who, as per family tradition, my Dad knew we were going out on Father’s Day, he just didn’t know where. As we rounded the corner and came within sight of the theater I pointed to the marquee and said, "Happy Father’s Day, Daddy! We’re seeing ‘South Pacific.’" As if on cue he began singing those familiar lyrics: "We’ve got sunlight on the sand. We’ve got moonlight on the sea . . . "
To allow for traffic, parking and dropping Rolie off at doggie day care (Lincoln Center wasn’t too keen on my suggestion for Take Your Pup to a Play Day) we’d gotten to the theater early. But so had everyone else. It seems older people aren’t into being fashionably late. Every senior citizen center within a 50-mile radius had come to Lincoln Center on Fathers Day. I’d never seen so many old people in all my life. Were there any left in Florida? My god, I think some of them were actual WWII vets.
As the house lights went down and the orchestra began I was surprised to hear how many songs were from "South Pacific:" "Some Enchanted Evening, Bali Hai, Wash That Man Right Out of My Hair." Honestly? I thought that was just a shampoo jingle.
I’ll admit that I was paying more attention to my Dad, than to the play. I was having fun watching him enjoy it. The parts I did catch didn’t make any sense. If there was a war going on, why were the nurses only wearing bathing suits and ball gowns? What’s with the grass skirts?
Did they have Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell back then? Although the Seabees sang and danced well, they looked like they could have cared less that there were no accessible dames.
Did Emile de Becque – The Frenchman – just turn down a suicide mission because of some chic he met at an officer’s party a week ago and not because of his responsibilities as the father of two young children?
By the end of Act I a realization was dawning. "Hold up: Did the cockeyed optimist – Miss Nellie Forbush – just freak out and flee her beloved Frenchman because he not only had two kids, but two ‘colored’ kids?" My dear sweet Husband tried to remain as still as possible. Perhaps he thought if he didn’t look at me, I wouldn’t go off. "Baby," he whispered in my ear, in the tone of an ever patient hostage negotiator. "You have to remember things were different back then. It was 1942."
I rolled my eyes so fast my contact lenses almost fell out. I turned to my Mother and said, "Did you know what this play was about?" She said, "Don’t ask me. I wanted to go see ‘The Wiz.’"
"Daddy?" I said, leaning past my Mom.
"I never said I liked the play," My Dad shrugged. "I like the music." And with that he began humming and strolled off to the mens room.
"Did I just spend goo gobs of money on a play nobody wanted to see?" I said. After a brief uncomfortable silence my Husband said, "I’m gonna go check on your Dad." My Mom got busy flipping through the "Playbill" perhaps looking to see when "The Wiz" would be playing.
My husband and father didn’t make it back to their seats until after the opening of ACT II. I assumed they were commiserating over their mutual me problem. My Husband reported however that the lines for then mens room were quite long. I was skeptical. It’s usually only women who have to do call-ahead seating to reserve a spot in the ladies room. But looking at the ages of the men in the audience — all those prostate problems under one roof – it’s a wonder any of them made it back before the final bow.
All’s well that ends well I suppose and by the end of "South Pacific" Miss Forbush miraculously got over her life long Little Rock, Arkansas-bred racism. Phew! For a minute there I thought I was gonna have to march, and I totally wore the wrong shoes. It’s hard to protest in pumps.
The lesson? I will have to be careful which songs I sing around my kids or for Mother’s Day they might drag me off to see "Iraq The Musical:"
We got sunlight on the sand
We got moonlight on the dunes
We got email and computersCool Ipods with hot Itunes
We got X-Box and Play Station
And a lot of bootleg games
What ain’t we got?
A good reason why we came
Thank you for reading Leighann Lord's Comic Perspective