Loretta at Lincoln Center

Loretta Ables Sayre, long a familiar face on Hawaii stages and TV screens, stars as Bloody Mary in a new production of South Pacific at New York’s famed Lincoln Center. It opens April 3. Loretta Ables Sayre has a lot to celebrate this week - turning 50 on April 1 and making her Broadway debut in the first Broadway revival of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein’s prize-winning musical classic South Pacific

Yu Shing Ting
Friday - April 04, 2008
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Li Jun Li, Loretta Ables Sayre and Matthew Morrison
Li Jun Li, Loretta Ables Sayre and Matthew Morrison in a scene from the Lincoln Center Theater production of South Pacific

days, six days a week as the show was in a preview period, which basically means an entire month of dress rehearsals in front of a live audience where the show is continually tweaked to ensure that everything is absolutely the way it should be for opening night.

“That first night on the stage, I was just overwhelmed in tears,” recalls Ables Sayre. “I could just barely make it out there, and to take the bow and hear the response from the audience was just about all I could handle. I cried and cried and cried. That’s been my life here in New York because it’s been so overwhelming.

“I just say thank you, thank you to God and to whomever my angels are that are swirling around that have brought me to this place in my life. I just can’t tell you how fortunate I am.”

Ables Sayre learned that she was hired for the role of Bloody Mary last August but couldn’t tell anyone until the official announcement was made to the public in October.

“They made us promise that we wouldn’t tell anyone, and they said specifically don’t tell anyone who has any press connection,” says Ables Sayre, whose husband, David Sayre, is president of a PR company and serves as her publicist. “Everybody in theater knows that when you go for a call-back, by the time you leave you kind of know one way or another. So, to have to keep it a secret for six weeks, it was hard. I couldn’t go to my stylist because she would be asking me questions. And when I would go to work, I would leave immediately because I couldn’t talk to anybody. I had a hard time just leaving the house.”

Loretta with South Pacific director Bart Sher
Loretta with South Pacific director Bart Sher

Ables Sayre, whose ethnic background includes Filipino, Spanish, French and Chinese, was born in California and raised in Hawaii. Her family received a military transfer to Hawaii when she was in the second grade, and she graduated from Radford High in 1976.

Now a resident of Mililani Mauka, Ables Sayre has been in New York since mid-January, staying in an apartment that overlooks Central Park - and is scheduled to stay there at least until the last show on June 22.

“There’s talk of an extension,” she explains.“So, if that happens, the earliest I would be able to come back to Hawaii is in the late fall.”

As incredible of an experience as it has been in New York, Ables Sayre says Hawaii will always be her home.

“I would consider coming back to New York depending on what kinds of other jobs are offered,” she says. “But I don’t think I would ever move here permanently.

“I’ve had people here in New York already asking if I would be interested in doing productions with them, but all I can think of right now is getting this show up and running. This is my priority, to make sure South Pacific is the No. 1 thing to go to in New York.

“During previews, they told us at Lincoln Center that the show has broken all the box office records for sales for the theater. So, hopefully, with the response that we’ve had, it will run for a very long time.”


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