Rodgers and Hammerstein’s acclaimed musical, based on the novel Tales of the South Pacific by James A. Michener, set on a remote island during World War II, tracks two parallel romances. The first one is between Nellie Forbush (Glenn Close), a Navy nurse, and Emile De Becque (Rade Sherbedgia), a wealthy, mysterious plantation owner; and the other is between a native girl and a young American Marine, Lt. Joseph Cable (Harry Connick, Jr.), whose secret mission on the island could change the course of the war.
The multi-layered story features an exuberant score, including such classics as “Some Enchanted Evening,” “Bali-Ha’i” and “I’m Gonna Wash that Man Right Out of My Hair.” While the 1958 film version timidly handles the theme of racial prejudice, this TV-version is far more courageous. And though Ms. Close is a bit mature for the role of Nellie, she gives a stirring performance, as does Harry Connick and the rest of the splendid cast. In many ways, it is far superior to the bloated theatrical version. Due to the two mild sexual situations, the program may not be suitable for children. But these situations are not graphic, nor exploitive. They serve to set the the stage for this tragic love story thwarted by standards of the time that drew a forbidding line between racial couplings. I was entertained and moved. It’s good television.