New York City recently suffered a serious invasion that will probably not ever be reported in “ The New York Times.” This past weekend, Shirley Seney and I (a devastating pair in any situation) journeyed into the city by way of Amtrak to attend the revival of the Rogers & Hammerstein musical “South Pacific.” It was first produced on Broadway in 1949, the year I graduated from college and was married to Charlie Kelly. “South Pacific” was adapted for the theater from James A. Michener’s novel “Tales of the South Pacific.” The story takes place the same years of World War II that I attended high school. Many battles (some won, some lost ) were fought, mostly by servicemen of the Navy and Air Force in the South Pacific.
We arrived at the theater in Lincoln Center an hour before the show and the lobby was already filling up. Shirley and I spent time eyeballing the patrons’ outfits as they came in, to see how we “stacked up” and at the same time checked out our own clothes for any spots that might have materialized from our lunchtime Bloody Mary’s. That was our drink of choice, in order to honor a principal character in the show, “Bloody Mary,” who was a Tongonese promoter of goods. She tried to sell such items as shrunken heads and grass skirts (and even her own daughter) to the service personnel.
Finally the ropes were lowered and the crowd dissipated, most heading up to the balconies, but some lucky persons entered the doors for the VIPs. “Come on,” I said to Shirley, “lets get our seats. We have been standing up too long.” I headed for the VIP section of the orchestra area and Shirley stopped me and says, “we have to go up there,” pointing to the stairs. A loud discussion followed, but I won, dragging Shirley with me. We present our tickets to the usher and Shirley (still thinking she is going to be kicked out) follows behind the usher and me. We are escorted down the center aisle, to seats eight rows from the front, dead center to the stage, into an aisle and an adjoining seat. If I kicked my shoe off with a little muscle, it would land in the orchestra pit.
An announcement dimmed the noise of the crowd. “Since the first act takes an hour and 45 minutes, those who would like to use the facilities should do so now.” Shirley took off in a hurry, while I, after checking my watch, determined that we would not be getting out of the theater until 5 o’clock. This posed a problem, as our reservations on Amtrak, to get back to Albany, were for the 5:20 train out of Penn Station.
As the 30-piece orchestra struck up the overture and the crowd went wild, Shirley slipped back into her prime aisle seat, but there was no time to discuss the train departure issue and from then to the end of the first act, we were too engrossed to say a word. The first act was over and for once Shirley was speechless. When we were finally able to communicate, we both said at the same time, “No way am I going to leave this show early to catch the train.”
At the end of the second act, when we were all blowing our noses and wiping tears away, we managed to elbow our way out to the street and I took off to try to grab a taxi. I saw one that looked empty, but it was on the other side of a stopped traffic jam. I ran (iIlegally) between two trucks and a tour bus, leaving Shirley behind and secured the cab. Shirley took off after me, but by then, traffic was moving. That didn’t phase her, she just held up her hand, like a cop, to stop the traffic and made it across. The cab driver tried his best, but our train had left. We were, however, able to change our tickets to a later train for an extra ten dollars. It was a wonderful show, better than the original. So, go if you get a chance, and find your own special island, “Bali Hi.” (The secret in getting those special tickets is about who you know.)