Pacific 1860 restores a pair of genuine rarities to the catalog of theater music, both featuring the work of Mary Martin. Pacific 1860 was a late-career stage musical by Noël Coward, from 1946, that ran for 128 performances in its original Drury Lane production, and featured Mary Martin in the lead role -- it's a pleasant but, by the changing standards of the theater at the time, rather old-fashioned work that more closely resembles the Savoy operas of Gilbert & Sullivan, and to the Viennese operetta-influence that dominated English theater in the pre-World War II era, than anything that was starting to seriously happen on-stage; it was in keeping with the British sensibilities of the time, however -- set on a 19th century South Pacific island that, in the words of annotator Bucky Willard, constituted Coward's version of Ruritania. And at that time, 128 performances was not considered a total failure, as it would be today. Mary Martin acquits herself well in the unlikely role of a 19th century diva, and she gets good support from Graham Payn as the lead. The fidelity isn't ideal, the detail being a little indistinct, but given the rarity of the original 78 rpm release of this material, it's difficult to complain too loudly. The CD is filled out with Martin's two unique-to-England contributions to the original British release of the cast recording of Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific, of which "Some Enchanted Evening" is the highlight; evidently, the producers used the U.S. versions of the rest of the material from the show for the U.K. release, so Rodgers & Hammerstein completists may have extra special reasons to be ecstatic over the rarities represented here.
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AllMusic Review by Bruce Eder