In all the times that I’ve seen the Rogers & Hammerstein musical South Pacific, be it the 1958 film version, a community theater production or playing lead trumpet in the pit orchestra when it was staged my senior year of high school, I have never once thought, “You know, I think this needs to be a grittier, more realistic portrayal of the war in the Pacific during World War Two.”
But Ileen Maisel and Bob Balaban have thought that perhaps South Pacific does need a bit of a make over. According to Variety, the pair are starting to develop a “harder-edge version of the iconic musical,” through their production company Chicagofilms. But this new version will keep all of the original musical’s upbeat songs. So no matter what kind of character makeover they put nurse Ensign Nellie Forbush through to give her that hard edge, she’s still at some point going to be belting out “A Cockeyed Optimist.”
So what exactly will a “harder-edged” version of South Pacific look like? Lt. Cable being shot down in a hail of bullets in a scene similar to Saving Private Ryan? If they stick closer to Michener’s original material, the short story collection Tales Of The South Pacific, the Emil de Becque character meets a grisly end with his severed head impaled on a stake, which doesn’t sound like a very enchanted evening to me.