From the second the majestic overture of Rodgers and Hammerstein's 1949 show starts, you know you're in for a treat: In this age of diminished Broadway pits, hearing the 45-piece Orchestra of St. Luke's firing on all cylinders is just thrilling. And that's only the beginning of the fun in this most traditional, most delightful musical, recorded live at Carnegie Hall in June 2005. As Nellie Forbush, Reba McEntire deploys a homespun Southern charm that works marvels against the urbane Emile de Becque, i.e., Brian Stokes Mitchell and his impossibly buttery baritone (check out his rendition of "Some Enchanted Evening"). Of course we shouldn't be surprised, since country star Reba had turned out to be musical-theater star Reba when she replaced Bernadette Peters in Annie Get Your Gun
on Broadway. Here, she brightly delivers classics (yes, the show is packed with them) like "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair" and "A Wonderful Guy." And let's not forget Lillias White, chewing the scenery in spectacular fashion as Bloody Mary ("Bali Ha'i," "Happy Talk"--what was that about the show being packed with memorable tunes again?). When the classic American musical is done with such gusto, it's hard not to be won over. --Elisabeth Vincentelli
Country Music and TV Star, Reba McEntire stars as Nellie Forbush in this live concert version of the classic Rodgers & Hammerstein musical, South Pacific. Recorded this past summer at Carnegie Hall, South Pacific was a 'one-night' only performance co-starring Broadway's Brian Stokes Mitchell and Alec Baldwin. The entire concert was taped by PBS (to be broadcast April 26), and this 75+ minute CD is the finely mastered cast recording of that concert. Decca. 2006.