A musical romance in 3 acts by Noel Coward.
Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, London - 19 December, 1946 - 12 April, 1947 (129 perfs)
Directed by Noel Coward:
Musical Director: Mantovani
Scenery & Costumes designed by Gladys E. Calthrop
PACIFIC 1860 is deeply sentimental in nature. Set in the picturesque age of crinolines and carriages, it is a lively story of unbridled romanticism amidst the 'abundant sunshine' of Coward's own private Ruritania, the Pacific island of Samolo.
The plot centres on the Stirlings – British plantation owners and the parents of romantically-minded Kerry, practical Rollo and a sextette of daughters highly contented with their Victorian lot although not averse to passing the time in a little 'let's pretend'.
The Stirlings are having a party to which their father refuses to invite the opera singer Elena Salvador, a visitor to the island, judging her in a way which Kerry finds particularly unreasonable. In a make-believe letter to the lady he tells her he is unaffected by 'the malicious, foolish things people say' when, suddenly, she is there in person, apparently the victim of a carriage accident. The two quickly become acquainted, before leaving the stage to the six sisters and their plump friend, Penelope, who bemoans her weight as they head off for a picnic. The act ends with Kerry inviting Elena to the party as they express the first feelings of love.
Act 2 finds the party already in progress and the Stirling girls and their young men from Government House engaged in poking fun at the Governor. Consternation raises its head when Elena arrives, but the Stirlings withdraw their objections when she turns out to be a friend of the Governor's wife. Kerry and Elena entertain the company with a native song and the latest dance respectively, but at the end of the dance Elena kisses Kerry full on the mouth, in front of the seandalised guests, and sweeps out.
It is a week later. At Elena's house her duenna, her maid and her cook sing about the night being for lovers. The lovers return and join in their own expression of love, but the duenna warns Elena not to take her 'love' too seriously. Elena's manager tells her he has arranged for them to leave Samolo and for her to take up her career again. Their financial arrangements leave her powerless to disobey him and, amidst a flower-laden native farewell she sails away, leaving Kerry broken-hearted on the quayside.
A year later (Act 3) she returns only to be greeted with the news that it is the wedding day of the young Mr. Stirling. In the Stirling garden the mothers bewail the passing of the years while the daughters protest they're always the bridesmaids, never the brides! Elena, watching in the shadows, adds her own lament for lost love but, when the bridal couple appear, the groom is not Kerry, but Rollo. Kerry gives the best man's toast and watches the happy pair depart. Left alone, he hears a voice ... Elena is there, they are in each other's arms, and the curtain falls on a happy ending.