It's been 60 years (almost to the day) since South Pacific graced Melbourne stages and yet despite the fact that its most salacious content is mild compared to modern-day scandal, there's still much tittering and gossip going on in the stalls.
This is largely down to tabloid insinuation about the realistic romantic fervour between the two leads, but whatever the real story, it certainly doesn't hurt this production.
Back in the world of the make believe, Lisa McCune is convincing as the little gal from Little Rock; as American as apple pie despite actually being an Aussie lamington. Teddy Tahu Rhodes is a commanding presence – his size and presence alone threaten to take over the whole stage. Sadly it's not quite enough to carry the performance without solid and consistent acting. Teddy is an opera singer first, an actor second and it shows. As a supposed Frenchman, the New Zealand-born singer struggles. Yet the moment he opens his mouth and sings, all is forgiven. You can feel the rumble of Rhodes before you hear him. It's unlike anything many would have experienced in the flesh. The bass/baritone (he gets classed as both) is more instrument than human. He imbues his sound with nobility and charisma.
Despite McCune's saccharine-sweet likability, herenviable ability to wear '40s-style crop tops and her damn fine vocal efforts, it is in fact the cast as an ensemble which is most impressive. Kate Cebrano knocks it out of the park as Bloody Mary – a woman who is equal parts comic relief and social conscience. Her renditions of 'Bali Ha'i' and 'Happy Talk' feel almost unchallenging for such a crafty voice. Her characterisation, meanwhile, does not falter.
Daniel Koek ( the least recognisable face to a mainstream audience) as Lt. Cable is consistent, believable and does a damn fine job. Sure, the song 'Younger than Springtime' seems a little creepy by today's standards, but he delivers it with the same wide-eyed enthusiasm as was originally intended.
Eddie Perfect's entrepreneurial Luther Billis is instantly likable and supported by an outstanding male chorus – the Pina Colada of the evening. With tipsy-like joy, camaraderie and outright laughs, they provide such light relief that more scenes would have been welcome. In fact, if this were the world of commercial television, they would have already been offered a spin-off series.
South Pacific is an enjoyable summer holiday escape within a Melbourne springtime that still believes it's winter. It's shamelessly romantic, but dynamic enough that 'non-musical' folk will still love it. Take your mum or your girlfriend and reap the rewards come Christmas time.
Lisa McCune and Teddy Tahu Rhodes on South Pacific