Generally considered to be one of the greatest musicals of all time, and a number of its songs, such as Bali Ha'i
, Younger than Springtime
, and Some Enchanted Evening
, have become worldwide standards. It was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1950. The play is based on two short stories by James A. Michener from his book Tales of the South Pacific
, which itself was the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1948.
The original cast starred Mary Martin as the heroine Nellie Forbush and opera star Ezio Pinza as Emile de Becque, the French plantation owner. Also in the cast were Juanita Hall, Myron McCormick, Betta St. John, and William Tabbert. Although De Becque and Forbush were already fully developed characters in Michener's stories, at some point during the creation of South Pacific, Rodgers and Hammerstein came to have both Pinza and Martin specifically in mind as playing these two roles. Pinza was a well-known opera basso and Martin was, with Ethel Merman, perhaps the leading Broadway musical comedienne of the era. The subsequent music, and its presentation within the show, was therefore tailored for the voices of Pinza and Martin.