Channel Nine may have The Voice but The Princess has The Voices.
The Princess being the Princess Theatre where a re-run of South Pacific opened on Saturday night.
And what voices they are. Opera singer Teddy Tahu Rhodes, Kate Ceberano, Eddie Perfect and Lisa McCune.
In this retelling of the World War Two story of love and war all roads lead to Rhodes. His is a massive voice. It dominates the show, the way that Tahu Rhodes, a physical giant, dominates the stage whenever he is on it. And, if all the gossip is to be believed, the way he is dominating the life of co-star McCune off-stage as well.
Their on-stage chemistry and off-stage gossip gave the show an extra frisson on Opening Night.
Tahu Rhodes, playing the widowed French expatriate planter, has a voice that doesn’t need to be miked.
His effect on some women in the audience was palpable. It did bring back a conversation I had with an executive at Sydney’s 2UE once when musing over the success of John Laws with women listeners.
The exec said, quite earnestly: ‘He sounds like he’s got a big ….’ Well, you get the drift.
My problem with Tahu Rhodes was his accent. Polynesian French? Sometimes German? Well, he had lived on an island in the New Hebrides for years and he was getting desperate.
The multi Gold Logie winner, Lisa McCune is a terrific Nellie Forbush. The 1940s southern belle from Little Rock, Arkansas, who just geographically has to be a racist. At first, anyway.
Eddie Perfect is perfect as the wheeler dealer sailor. Every unit and every military movie has one. Like Milo Minderbinder from Catch-22. And Kate Ceberano surprised me as Bloody Mary. She grows on you.
All the songs are there, like old favourites, Some Enchanted Evening, Bali Ha’i, This Nearly Was Mine and Younger than Springtime.
Then you get the cornball ones that really date this show. Gonna Wash that Man Right out of my Hair and There is Nothing a Dame. For that one you get all the sailor boys, apeing, over-acting, like cartoon characters. Not their fault. It’s the way musicals played 60 years ago when South Pacific was first staged.
And in the dated bits you can drift off and think: Lisa McCune and Teddy Tahu Rhodes. Wow… who would have thunk it.
Footnote: A bit of trivia for theatre freaks. In this version of South Pacific veteran musical star John O’May appears as the island-based American admiral. Where’s the trivia? In a career spanning more than 30 years this is the first time ever that John O’May has appeared in a musical where he does not sing. But he acts well.