Kate Herbert is theatre reviewer, Herald Sun, Melbourne & formerly for Melbourne Times. Kate is a director & produced playwright (20 plays). Scripts published by Currency Press. She worked as an actor, comedian, improviser & teacher of Acting, Improvisation & Playwriting. Kate is currently Convenor of Professional Writing & Editing, Swinburne University. Read her reviews here or at: www.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/arts. NB Explorer Browser doesn't always work on blog.
Sunday, 23 September 2012
South Pacific, Sept 22, 2012 ***
Music by Richard Rodgers, Lyrics by Oscar
Hammerstein II, Book by Hammerstein & Joshua Logan
Adapted from Tales of the Pacific by James A.
Opera Australia & John Frost present the Lincoln Center Production (2008 New York)
Theatre, Melbourne, Sept 15 to Nov 11, 2012 then Brisbane
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Sept 22, 2012
Review not to be published in Herald Sun. KH
Teddy Tahu Rhodes & Lisa McCune in South Pacific
SOUTH PACIFIC, RODGERS' AND HAMMERSTEIN'S enchanting 1949 musical, is certainly a story about love
burgeoning in the exotic south seas, but it also cunningly tells an
accompanying tale of racism and war.
This Opera Australia
production is based on the Lincoln Center production and is directed by
American, Bartlett Sher, whose 2008 Broadway version won several Tony Awards.
The casting looks
exceptional and hearing Teddy Tahu Rhodes’ soaring baritone sing Some Enchanted
Evening is a thrilling experience.
Another high calibre
operatic voice is that of tenor, Daniel Koek, singing the role of Lieutenant
Cable, the young marine who falls in love with a young island girl, and his
rendition of Younger Than Springtime is moving and exhilarating.
Koek’s character also
expresses his self-loathing about how he learned his own racial prejudice at
the feet of his parents, in the pointed lyrics of You’ve Got To Be Carefully
Eddie Perfect eats up the
role of Luther Billis, playing with playful impertinence and brash assuredness this
dodgy sailor who has an eye to the main chance, and the rousing chorus scenes
with Billis and his cheeky, navy chorus of dancers are high points.
Eddie Perfect & chorus in South Pacific
Kate Ceberano surprises
us with her bold and credible portrayal of Bloody Mary, the islander who makes
a living ripping off the sailors with her double dealings and homemade hula
Although Lisa McCune is
pert and cutesy as Ensign Nellie Forbush, the naïve, Navy nurse, her voice is
thin and lacks the passion, range and presence required for this role. Her
Nellie needs to be even more relentlessly optimistic, even perkier and the
voice needs to power brazenly through those musical numbers.
There is also a distinct
lack of onstage chemistry between the two leads, McCune as Nellie and Rhodes as
Emile. Their opening love scene is so lacking in passion and so unromantic that
any silences feel endless and we cannot believe in their attraction. (Odd, given the gossip around their off
When I cared more about
the sweet but ill-fated romance between Cable and his childlike love, Liat
(Celina Yuen), than the love affair between the leads, there is something
Rhodes’s velvet voice
carries the songs but his acting is wooden and he looks awkward and uncomfortable
in every scene.
Perhaps the production is tired after a season in Sydney (unforgiveable), or possibly the matinee performance we saw was below par (also unforgivable), but Bartlett Sher’s direction
seems to be by the numbers, attempting to replicate the Broadway/West End
production. Perhaps Rhodes and McCune suffered from not being able
to explore their own version of the characters and their relationship.
The production fails to
balance the romance and naivete on the one hand, with the bold and dangerous
environment of the war.
Although it has some
highlights with the voices of Rhodes and Koek and the funny and titillating chorus
scenes, the production as a whole is lack lustre and the pacing of the dialogue
in the scenes is often flabby.
By Kate Herbert
Teddy Tahu Rhodes: Emile
Lisa McCune: Ensign
Daniel Koek: Lieut. Joseph
Eddie Perfect: Luther Billis
Kate Ceberano: Bloody
John O’May: Captain
Jeremy Stanford: Commander
Rowan Witt: Professor
Celina Yuen: Liat
Director: Bartlett Sher
Conductor: Vanessa Scammel
Sets: Michael Eyargan
Costumes: Catherine Zuber
Lighting: Douglas Holder
Sound Scott Lehrer
Orchestrations: Roberrt Russell Bennett
Dance/Incidental Music Arrangements: Trude Rittman