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'South Pacific' still making waves 62 years later

WANT TO GO?

"South Pacific"

Presented by Broadway in Charleston

WHERE: Clay Center

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Sunday

TICKETS: $34 and $58

INFO: 304-561-3570 or www.theclaycenter.orgCHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Cathy Foy, who plays Bloody Mary in the national touring production of "South Pacific," thinks people might be a little surprised by this new revival of the musical, especially if what they remember is the 1958 film or 2001 television production.

"The issue of prejudice is more to the forefront," she said. "The idea of war and war being hell is more pronounced."

Foy said the musical, which comes to the Clay Center Sunday night, fits with the times.

"We're still at war, and there's still prejudice," she said, before noting that prejudice, at least, isn't as commonplace as it was when James A. Michener wrote his "Tales of the South Pacific," which the musical was based on.

Weaving different characters from Michener's stories into one plot, "South Pacific" revolves around two couples in love in wartime Hawaii. Both struggle with racial prejudice, and their love is tested.

The musical is an American classic and a Broadway powerhouse. The original 1949-1950 production won 10 Tony Awards and a Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The 2008 Broadway revival was nominated for 11 Tonys and won seven, including Best Revival and Best Direction of a Musical.

While Foy said the story might be seen through a slightly darker lens now than it was in 1950, the heart of the story is the same, and the music is wonderful.

"The music is above and beyond," she said. "A song will come on, and you'll see couples out in the audience reach out to hold hands. I think it's a wonderful testament to the music of Rodgers and Hammerstein."

She laughed. "They don't write 'em like that anymore."

Foy joined the tour in the summer, after her friend, Loretta Ables Sayre, recommended her to the show.

Ables Sayre starred as Bloody Mary in the Broadway revival and was nominated for a Tony for her work in the role -- a role she landed because of Foy. Foy said she got Ables Sayre to audition for the role in the first place.

The women both grew up in Hawaii. Foy, the daughter of an Irish-American father and a Japanese mother, said her family moved to Hawaii, where she grew up, in the 1960s.

"Hawaii was a wonderful place," she said. It's not at all like the south pacific island on which the musical is set.

"Growing up in Hawaii, I didn't see a lot of prejudice," she said. "There are so many people from many different nationalities living there. I would see Pearl Harbor every day and, you know, I think people forgive."

Foy got into acting in the 1970s, and after appearing in a couple of television shows filmed in Hawaii, she moved to New York. Over the years, she's moved back and forth between the mainland and the island state.

"So four years ago, I was pounding the pavement in New York and I heard they were casting for a Bloody Mary for a revival at Lincoln Center. I told her this was a great part for her."

Ables Sayre auditioned and got the part. After the current national tour was announced, she talked to the producers about giving her friend the role. Foy, meanwhile, had returned to Hawaii.

"She called me," Foy said. "I took the role and now I'm touring the U.S. while she's in London with the show."

They keep in touch, she said.

Reach Bill Lynch at lynch@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5195.


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