Judge Brett Cullum is coming up roses this enchanted evening.
Our reviews of Gypsy (Blu-ray) (published December 17th, 2012), Natalie Wood Collection (published February 11th, 2009), The Rodgers And Hammerstein Collection (published January 15th, 2007), South Pacific (Blu-Ray) (published April 13th, 2009), and South Pacific In Concert From Carnegie Hall (published July 13th, 2006) are also available.
Two Broadway legends hit the small screen.
A musical double feature that includes over four and a half hours of Broadway classics such as "Some Enchanted Evening" and "Everything's Coming up Roses" is a no-brainer for theatre fans. Mill Creek offers everybody a double bill of both South Pacific and Gypsy in their made for television incarnations starring Glenn Close (Fatal Attraction) and Bette Midler (The Rose). Even though these two were made eight years apart, they do feel closely related, as if they are companions made to go together, so the pairing makes sense.
Up first we get the 2001 television version of South Pacific which true blue musical fans may find off-putting. There are significant differences in this televised version of the production which takes liberties from the source material. The number "Happy Talk" is cut entirely, because it was feared the song would be seen as having racial overtones that wouldn't be good for television. The book has been reworked, which gives the dialogue all a more modern feel, and it fleshes out some of the younger characters such as Lieutenant Cable's story. Everything is played more serious and believable, and it seems the actors were cast more for their thespian skills rather than singing. Nobody belts anything, and instead we get the likes of Harry Connick, Jr. (Independence Day) crooning his way through the numbers. Glenn Close seems a bit old to be playing Nellie, and far too worldly to fear a relationship with Emile (Rade Serbedzija, Batman Begins). But in the end it's not "South Pathetic" by any means, and the story and songs make things seem just fine. Close is good enough to pull off being miscast, and this version of Bloody Mary, played by Lori Tan Chinn (Ransom), is a fun and different take. Purists are going to struggle with it, but overall it's a modern take on an old chestnut.
In complete contrast, the second feature seems to go for broke using the original as gospel. Gypsy stays strictly true to the stage incarnation, often looking like it is being presented in a theater rather than as a filmed version. Bette Midler had some large shoes to fill with Ethel Merman originating the role. The revival on Broadway had been mounted in 1989 with Tyne Daly as Mama Rose, but Midler puts her own stamp on the role quickly with a ferocity that would have made Merman shrink. From her opening number "Some People" all the way to the finale of "Rose's Turn," she is perfection in a part that showcases her brassy pipes and bigger than life personality. The show belongs to Bette, and she eclipses anyone in her path, including Cynthia Gibb (Youngblood) who does fine enough with the Gypsy Rose Lee character, despite being cast opposite a tornado of talent. This is a definitive version that should be mandatory viewing for both Bette Midler fans as well as people who just love the musical Gypsy.
Both features are presented on bare bones discs which offer the musicals and no extras to go along with them. The fullscreen transfers look just fine, although Gypsy has a more saturated and clean presentation. Maybe it's the difference of filming on location versus a sound stage, but the Bette Midler vehicle looks better than South Pacific in terms of detail and clarity. Still, both look like television productions and lack the filmic scope of the original movie versions of each show.
The real winner in this set is Gypsy thanks to Bette Midler's turn as Mama Rose, and South Pacific just feels nice to have along with it. Musical fans are going to find there is less tinkering with what works with Gypsy, and may cry foul when they realize South Pacific is more of an adaptation than it probably should have been. On the singing front Gypsy wins hand down, while South Pacific seems downright staid and placid by comparison. Both of these titles have been on DVD before, and Mill Creek offers nothing new other than a chance to own them both together in one value priced package. That should work for people who want bigger bang for their Broadway buck.
Guilty of making you hum a tune or two that you know all too well!
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Scales of Justice, Gypsy
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Studio: Mill Creek Entertainment
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Scales of Justice, South Pacific
Perp Profile, South Pacific
Studio: Mill Creek Entertainment
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