April 02, 2001 12:00 PM

Trying to play over the enduring memory of Mary Martin portraying nurse Nellie Forbush in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classic musical South Pacific, Glenn Close picked a good place to start: wardrobe. Last July, during rehearsals for a three-hour television remake of the Broadway and Hollywood classic (airing March 26 on ABC), Close, 54, and her fellow World War II nurses shed their uniform tops and strode across the set—surprise!—in their bras. “It was one way of getting the guys’ attention,” says producer Michael Gore with a laugh.

There were other eye-catching moments during the two-month $15 million shoot near Port Douglas, Australia, and, briefly, Tahiti—among them, rugged Robert Pastorelli (Murphy Brown) singing “Honey Bun” in a hula skirt as hustler Luther Billis. “I won’t be able to go back to the neighborhood now!” says Pastorelli, 46.

Harry Connick Jr., 33, who plays U.S. Marine Joe Cable, was more worried about “coming out of a long piece of dialogue and getting onto a moving vehicle while trying to sing,” he says. After all, having been entrusted with one of the most celebrated scores ever (with hits including “Some Enchanted Evening,” “Bali H’ai” and “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair”), the entire cast, says Close, was trying to create “something that will stand on its own forever.”

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