Pacific Overtures

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Pacific Overtures is a musical with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, a libretto by John Weidman, and additional material by Hugh Wheeler. The musical is set in 1853 Japan and follows the difficult Westernization of Japan, through the lives of two friends caught in the change. The title of the work is ironic, nodding toward "overture" as a musical form, noting that the initiatives of the Western powers for commercial exploitation of the Pacific nation were anything but "pacific" (or peaceable) overtures. Built around a quasi-Japanese pentatonic scale, the music contrasts Japanese contemplation ("There is No Other Way") with Western ingeniousness ("Please Hello," "Pretty Lady").

The original Broadway production of Pacific Overtures in 1976 was presented in Kabuki style, with men playing women's parts and set changes made in full view of the audience by people dressed in black. It opened to mixed reviews and closed after six months, nevertheless being nominated for ten Tony Awards. According to Steven Suskin, the score is "uniformly interesting" and contains "some of Sondheim's finest writing".[1]

The show is sometimes put on by opera companies.

Contents

Productions

Pacific Overtures opened on Broadway at the Winter Garden Theatre on January 11, 1976, and closed after 193 performances on June 27, 1976. Directed by Harold Prince, the choreography was by Patricia Birch, scenic design by Boris Aronson, costume design by Florence Klotz, and lighting design by Tharon Musser. The original cast recording was released originally by RCA Records and later on CD. This production was nominated for 10 Tony Awards, and won Best Scenic Design (Boris Aronson) and Best Costume Design (Florence Klotz).

An off-Broadway production ran at the Promenade Theatre from October 25, 1984 for 109 performances, transferring from an earlier production at the York Theatre Company. Directed by Fran Soeder with choreography by Janet Watson, the cast featured Ernest Abuba and Kevin Gray.[2]

The European premiere was directed by Howard Lloyd-Lewis (Library Theatre, Manchester) at Wythenshawe Forum in 1986 with choreography by Paul Kerryson who subsequently directed productions in 1993 and 2006 at Leicester Haymarket Theatre.

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