Sondheim’s tour de force, Pacific Overtures—the complete musical—is now on YouTube.

Pacific Overtures complete video
Pacific Overtures complete video

Chrysanthemum Tea, Mother sings:

To begin, if I may, my Lord, 
I’ve no wish to remind you 
But you’ll notice just behind you 
There are ships in the bay, 
They’ve been sitting there all-day 
With a letter to convey 
And they haven’t gone away 
And there’s every indication 
That they’re planning to stay, my Lord?

Pacific Overtures is an astonishingly powerful concept musical that opened at the Winter Garden Theatre on January 11, 1976. The plot centers around Commodore Perry’s first visit to Japan in 1853. Composer Stephen Sondheim described his work as “the most bizarre and unusual musical ever to be seen in a commercial setting.”

I’d flown back to New York from California in the spring of ’76 for a couple of quick meetings and had time to squeeze in just one Broadway show. I headed to the Winter Garden and have never regretted my choice.

I’ve learned over the years some shows can be made more personal—more profound—by way of seeing them alone. Pacific Overtures was one of them. I watched things I had no knowledge of, heard sounds I’d never heard, and lost all sense of current day, time, and place.

Yesterday, I discovered via that on June 9, 1976, the matinee and evening performances of Pacific Overtures were filmed live at the Winter Garden by Herman Rush Productions. The musical was broadcast on Japanese television, making it the first Broadway musical to do so. The telecast was sponsored by Hal Prince and advertising agency McCann Erickson-Hakuhodo, and the full production is on YouTube. I just watched the 2-hour and 20-minute production, and nearly fifty years later, my heartbeat still goes wild at the beginning of the show to the sound of the hyoshigi. Grab some sake and enjoy the show!

The original Broadway production of Pacific Overtures (1976) was staged in Kabuki style, with men playing women’s parts and set changes made in full view of the audience by black-clad stagehands. It opened to mixed reviews and closed after six months despite being nominated for ten Tony Awards.

By Stephen Brockelman

As a Sr. Writer at T. Rowe Price, I work with a group of the best copywriters around. We belong to the broader creative team within Enterprise Creative, a part of Corporate Marketing Services. _____________________________________________ A long and winding road: My path to T. Rowe Price was more twisted than Fidelity’s green line. With scholarship in hand, I left Kansas at 18 to study theatre in New York. When my soap opera paychecks stopped coming from CBS and started coming from the show’s sponsor, Proctor & Gamble, I discovered the power of advertising and switched careers. Over the years I’ve owned an ad agency in San Francisco; worked for Norman Lear on All in the Family, Good Times, Sanford and Son, and the rest of his hit shows; and as a member of Directors Guild of America, I directed Desi Arnaz in his last television appearance— we remained friends until his death. In 1988 I began freelancing full time didn’t look back. In January 2012 my rep at Boss Group called and said, “I know you don’t want to commute and writing for the financial industry isn’t high on your wish list, but I have a gig with T. Rowe Price in Owings Mills…” I was a contractor for eight months, drank the corporate Kool-Aid, became a TRP associate that August, and today I find myself smiling more often than not.

Leave a ReplyCancel reply

Exit mobile version