Broadway Features and Reviews
Featured Actress Inspires New York Times Editorial
By Christopher Moore, Broadway Magazine
How often does a featured actress in a musical give a performance that inspires an editorial in the New York Times? The answer is once, as far as we can tell. The actress who achieved that feat, as well as breathing breath, blood, and passion into Rodger and Hammerstein's South Pacific is Loretta Ables Sayre who stars as the infamous Bloody Mary in the hit musical revival from Lincoln Center.
Recently nominated for a Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical, Sayre's performance is often cited as one of the many reasons Bartlett Sher's production resounds so strongly with audiences as a musical of depth, insight, and rich with human emotion. With 11 Tony Nominations, what Sher and his Lincoln Center company have created is a revival that is more timely than the newest plays on Broadway. Ironically, if August: Osage County recalls the best of O'Neill and Williams, the revival of South Pacific feels more like a new play than a revival. Be that as it may, the Hawaiian artist Sayre is making her Broadway debut, and it is an exquisite example of artist and role working together in such a refreshing and direct way that the character of Bloody Mary suddenly takes on a depth previously unrecognized in earlier productions. Sayre clearly mines the genius of Rodgers and Hammerstein to deliver a golden performance.
This brings us to the New York Times editorial "Bloody Mary Is The Girl I Love" by Lawrence Downes. In the editorial, Downes singles out Sayre's performance as encapsulating what is so profound and enlightening about this revival of "South Pacific." In his essay, Downes credits Sayres for her interpretation of a previously one-dimensional character. Discussing Sayre's performance, Downes writes: "...Bloody Mary is flawed and human, not cardboard. And when she(Sayre) sings "Happy Talk," it's not a ditty. It's soaked in sadness, a desperate plea to Cable to imagine life with Liat. When he rejects it, the curse Bloody Mary spits at him - 'Stingy bastard!' - carries the full weight of a mother's anguish."
In this revival, Downes argues, Bloody Mary's struggle for survival is at the very heart of the musical's message. With its candid dealing of issues of race and gender, Downes concludes "Maybe it's not 'South Pacific' catching up with the times, but the other way around." Given the timeliness and success of this revival, one can look at Sayre's contribution and ask: "When is a featured actress in a musical more than a featured actress in a musical?" This season on Broadway the answer is clear. It is when Loretta Ables Sayre is playing Bloody Mary in "South Pacific."
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