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. Michener
Opera Australia & John Frost present the Lincoln Center Production (2008 New York)
Princess Theatre, Melbourne, Sept 15 to Nov 11, 2012 then Brisbane
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Sept 22, 2012
Stars: ***
Review not to be published in Herald Sun.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 Taught.

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 skirts.

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 stage relationship.)

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 amiss.

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 de Becque
Lisa McCune: Ensign Nellie Forbush
Daniel Koek: Lieut. Joseph Cable
Eddie Perfect: Luther Billis
Kate Ceberano: Bloody Mary
John O’May: Captain Brackett
Jeremy Stanford: Commander Harbinson
Rowan Witt: Professor
Celina Yuen: Liat

Creative Team
Director: Bartlett Sher (Lincoln Center)
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
Casting Director: Neil Rutherford
Austrlaian Music Director: Andrew Greene
Musicl Supervisor: Ted Sperling
Musical Staging: Christopher Gattelli

Featured songs:
I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair
Happy Talk
Bali H’ai
Younger Than Springtime
Some Enchanted Evening
I’m In Love With a Wonderful Guy
You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught

No comments:

Post a Comment