Entertainment Hive 2017

South Pacific enchants New Year's audience

Roger's and Hammerstein's South Pacific, Adelaide Festival Centre, until

January 26

Review by Honey B

It certainly was some enchanted evening for the opening night of South Pacific at the Adelaide Festival Centre. With a wonderful ensemble cast, charming lead performers and a spectacular set and costumes, the hit Opera Australia production opened in superb style on New Year's eve (the early fireworks even coincided with interval!). This classic Rogers and Hammerstein musical gem is still very relevant today with its messages of racism and prejudice alongside two very different love stories set during World War II. Playing US navy nurse Nellie Forbush was Gold Logie winning sweetheart Lisa McCune and the role as the "hick'' Little Rock girl-next-door fit Ms McCune like a glove. While the petite performer's vocals might not be as strong as many in the cast, this actually worked in her favour as she had a sweet, natural tone to match her character's demeanour. McCune certainly proved to be a powerhouse when it came to throwing herself into the role which she did with much gusto and sass. At first glance the tall and handsome opera star Teddy Tahu Rhodes certainly seemed like a good fit for the French plantation owner Emile De Becque. He was fantastic when it came to his musical numbers with that booming baritone that sent thrills rippling through the audience, but unfortunately he was a bit too wooden when it came to the acting side of things. Playing the older and wiser character of Emile did give him some stoic leeway, but at times he just seemed awkward. Rhodes also struggled with the accent and at times sounded like Arnold Schwarzenegger. However, McCune and Rhodes really zinged when they danced together and it was hard to deny the romantic power of their song - Some Enchanted Evening. As Tonkinese trader Bloody Mary, Christine Anu was virtually unrecognisable with fake, beetle juice stained teeth and a long straight wig. Anu embraced the bold, brash and manipulative Mary and gave a strong performance with impeccable vocals thrown in. Her rendition of Bali Ha'i was mesmerising. Relative newcomer to the production, Mitchell Butel was a standout as wheeling and dealing sailor and leader of the Seabees, Luther Billis. Butel brought great depth, a touch of slyness and humour to the role and definitely made it his own (previous productions featured Eddie Perfect and Gyton Grantley). Young tenor Blake Bowden as Lieutenant Cable was another shining light in this stellar production. He brought much passion and pathos to the character and his vocals were divine. This Opera Australia production truly stands out thanks to its wonderful ensemble cast and numbers such as There Is Nothing Like a Dame and I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Out of My Hair proved this. Another favourite performance was Butel and McCune teaming up for the very funny follies routine Honey Bun. Speaking of buns (yes, it's a bad intentional pun), the addition of a couple of naked men was appreciated by the ladies in the audience. While the production ended in a beautiful and chaste way, it was a little disappointing that the cast did not sing one final time to really round off the evening.
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