The original Broadway production of “South Pacific” with Mary Martin and Ezio Pinza opened on Broadway in 1949, but what goes around comes around — and Tony nominee Kelli O’Hara, who stars as Navy nurse Nellie Forbush in a ”Live From Lincoln Center: South Pacific” presentation of the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical, says the show still feels strikingly relevant.
“In many ways this didn’t feel like a 60-year-old play,” O’Hara tells Zap2it about the show, which PBS airs Wednesday, Aug. 18, on most affiliates (check local listings). “I feel like if there are real people dealing with real problems and issues like falling in love, or the loss of that love, it’s always something that people can relate to.”
Timing was everything, however, for this, the first Broadway revival of the musical since that original production, when it opened in 2008.
“The thing about ‘South Pacific’ that is so relevant and brought us into a more modern time is that there are so many things matching up,” O’Hara says. “Our country is at war right now. We were electing an African-American president and our whole show was based on issues of race. We just felt so very relevant that it made us all believe in what we were doing very, very strongly. It was just important on its own, without our trying to conjure up ways to make it important.
“I don’t have any trouble finding reality in any story I am doing as long as there are real people involved. It doesn’t matter what period of time you’re dealing with.”