How many of you have seen or at least heard of the 1949 Rogers and Hammerstein musical South Pacific? This week’s THROWBACK THURSDAY is taking a look at the 10 time Tony award winning musical that has resonated with audience members for decades. The show was last revived in 2008, taking home 7 Tony awards while featuring Kelli O’Hara (currently in Bridges of Madison County) and Matthew Morrison (Glee).
Juanita Long Hall, was born in Keyport, New Jersey on Nov. 6, 1901 to an African-American father, Abram Long, and an Irish American mother, Mary Richardson.
Classically trained at Juilliard, Hall’s early career was in singing and choir directing. From 1935 to 1944 she directed the Works Progress Administration (WPA) Chorus. From 1941 to 1942 she also directed the Westchester (New York) Chorale and Dramatics Association. In the early 1940s she led the Juanita Hall Choir, which performed on radio with Rudy Vallee and Kate Smith and in 1949 the Juanita Hall Choir performed in the film, Miracle in Harlem.
Hall’s first major acting role came in 1943 when she appeared on Broadway in The Pirate. Other Broadway acting opportunities came and she performed in Sing Out, Sweet Land, Saint Louis Woman, Deep Are the Roots, The Secret Room, Street Scene, and The Ponder Heart, all between 1943 and 1956.
Fun fact: Hall sometimes had to pass for Asian to get jobs on Broadway (i.e. Bloody Mary in South Pacific and Madam Liang in Flower Drum Song)
In 1950 Hall became the first African-American to win a Tony Award when she was named Best Supporting Actress for her role in South Pacific. She eventually played the part for close to 2,000 performances onstage and was the only cast member from the original Broadway production to star in the 1958 movie version. Take a look at her famous number, Bali Ha’i ,below.
Diosa Costello is a Latina actor, producer, recording artist and entrepreneur. Ms. Costello is credited as the first Latina on Broadway.
She started her career in Spanish Harlem, and first her big break came when she starred in the George Abbott-directed musical Too Many Girls in 1939. Later in her career she went on to perform in the Broadway musical South Pacific and in the film They Met in Argentina.
Interesting fact: She thinks JLo would be the best actress to portray her in a movie.
Check out these fun extras– Q and A With Diosa Costello
Source: Smithsonian Newsdesk