Broadway, like everyone, loves Reba McEntire. The redheaded Oklahoma firebrand took on the one-night-only concert role of Nellie Forbush on June 9, 2005the role Mary Martin immortalized in the 1949 Rodgers & Hammerstein classic South Pacificand the rialtos toughest critics, led by The New York Times Ben Brantley, instantly surrendered. "Open-voiced and open-faced, she was born to play Nellie," Brantley wrote of the Carnegie Hall benefit performance, adding that the entire production was performed "in a state of nearly unconditional rapture. It was one of those nights when cynicism didnt stand a chance." Happily that enchanted evening can be shared with fans everywhere when "SOUTH PACIFIC" IN CONCERT FROM CARNEGIE HALL comes to DVD. Completing the luxury casting are Broadway and Hollywood icons Brian Stokes Mitchell and Alec Baldwin, as, respectively, French planter Emile de Becque and wise guy sailor Luther Billis. The performance also aired on Thirteen/WNE! T New Yorks GREAT PERFORMANCES on PBS in April/May.
Rodgers and Hammerstein's glorious score for South Pacific gets a surge of welcome new energy in this 2005 Carnegie Hall concert. Brian Stokes Mitchell (Kiss Me Kate, Ragtime) is in spectacular voice singing "Some Enchanted Evening" and "This Nearly Was Mine," but the real discovery is country star Reba McEntire as Nellie Forbush. McEntire won raves when she replaced Bernadette Peters in Annie Get Your Gun, but her performance was never recorded and released to the general public. Now we can understand the raves for ourselves, because McEntire is a joy in the role that features such standards as "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair" and "A Wonderful Guy." Those used to Mary Martin (which is nearly everybody) will need to get used to McEntire's scoops and twang, but it's not inappropriate for a character hailing from Little Rock, Arkansas.
Jason Danieley (The Full Monty) and Lillias White are both effective as Lieutenant Cable and Bloody Mary, respectively, and Alec Baldwin doesn't embarrass himself any more than he's supposed to as Billis. Because it's a concert performance, the singers carry books and don't wear costumes other than in "Honey Bun" (so the nurses jog in the surf and wash their hair wearing black gowns). But much of the story is conveyed through dialogue excerpts, so the 113-minute DVD is substantially longer than the 78-minute CD. --David Horiuchi