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The fall of musical Communism

September 29, 2011
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Published in Metro

In 1949, some lyrics in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical, “South Pacific,” were deemed too “Communist,” for the stage.  Why? They supported interracial marriage.

“In the song, I explain that a person’s prejudice is not born in him. ‘It’s got to be drummed in your dear little ear,’” says Shane Donovan, the Abingotn, Mass. raised performer who plays Marine Corps Lt. Joe Cable in the new production.  “It created a lot of controversy, because that’s the way parents taught their kids back then. If you were white, you marry a white woman.”

In the show, Cable, who is stationed on a South Pacific island during World War II, falls in love with a native girl.

“He’s a very prejudiced man, but then he meets Liat and his whole world turns around,” Donovan says. “By the end, he’s disgusted by the way he’s been raised.”

Donovan has family members who served in the military, and a 22-year-old cousin stationed in Afghanistan now, so he appreciates how “South Pacific” represents truth.

“We play characters, but at some point, these kinds of things came up in real marines’ lives,” says Donovon. “They were on this island, not knowing when they would go home, or if they’d go home at all.”

Local roots

Donovan’s big family hails from Dorchester. “Saturday night I’ve got 80-plus people coming to see me. It’s a little nerve-wracking, but I’m excited,” he says.


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