Wednesday, November 20, 2013


Opera Australia and John Frost.

Director - Bartlett Sher,

Musical Director and Conductor – Stephen Gray

Crown Theatre – Perth until 8th December 2013

Performance 12th November 2013 - reviewed by Bill Stephens

A trip to Perth provided the opportunity  to take a second look at this much acclaimed production, which had just begun a four-week season in the Crown Theatre in Perth. Since my first viewing this production has undergone several significant cast changes, so it was especially interesting to see the effect of these changes on the show.   

Teddy Tahu Rhodes (Emile de Becque) - Lisa McCune (Nellie Forbush)
Lisa McCune as Nellie Forbush,  and  Teddy Tahu Rhodes as Emile De Becque still lead the company , and their performances have matured noticeably in the roles. McCune’s Nellie Forbush is as engaging and fresh as ever, but her singing seems even more confident  and nuanced. Teddy Tahu Rhodes now appears much more relaxed as De Becque and his characterisation has deepened, but he is still inclined to just ‘stand and deliver’ his two big ballads “Some Enchanted Evening” and “This Nearly was Mine”, and with a voice like his, who can blame him because both songs remain as thrilling as ever.

Mitchell Butell as Luther Billis 
Bartholomew John, replacing John O’May, brings an agreeable gruffness to the role of Captain Bracket. Mitchell Butell, the third actor to have a crack at the role of Luther Billis, after Eddie Perfect and Gyton Grantley, is delightfully knock-about, likeable and funny in the role.   

In this production, Bloody Mary is portrayed, not as a cheerful exotic islander, but more as manipulative mother, desperate to make a better life for her daughter, Liat. While there’s  sympathy for her plight, Bloody Mary is hard to like, particularly as played by Christine Anu, who brings little warmth to the role, particularly in the decidedly uncomfortable scene where she harangues the obviously ill Cable to marry Liat.  

Blake Bowden, replacing Daniel Koek as the young officer, Lieutenant Cable, is certainly handsome and sings superbly, especially  in “Younger than Springtime”,  but he hasn’t yet developed a strong enough stage presence to make his rather over-wrought rendition of “You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught” the show-stopping moment it should have been.
Elsewhere, the ensemble remain as energectic as ever, providing strong vocal back-up and performing Christopher Gattelli's inventive musical stagings with  zing and enthusiasm. 

Though spacious and comfortable, the Crown Theatre is cavernous, with a very high ceiling, and large proscenium which had the affect of making the production look a bit underwhelming. The voices of the  principals were so over-amphlfied as to become disconcertingly dis-embodied at times, and the orchestra was  smaller than at the Sydney Opera House, which affected the lushness of the sound. However a second viewing allowed the opportunity to focus on the imaginative direction of Bartlett Sher and how he has refocussed many of the key moments to allow the production to flow effortlessly from scene to scene, towards the climax which remains as affecting as ever. 

After its Perth Season "South Pacific" moves on to Adelaide for a  December 29th Opening. 

Blake Bowden as Lieutenant Cable - Christine Anu as Blood Mary.




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