A Hundred and One Pounds of Fun

You may or may not have picked up that I am a fan of artistic endeavours which have a wide appeal and attract a large range of people. And this is the reason why Opera Australia’s South Pacific is one of the best offerings that Australia has seen in a while.

Lisa McCune (Nellie Forbush) and Male Ensemble in Opera Australia’s South Pacific
Photo Credit: Kurt Sneddon

In an incredibly competitive entertainment marketplace, it is rare to find an offering that is as popular as Opera Australia’s South Pacific. Especially when every weekend these shows are competing with all other forms of entertainment from going to the football or seeing a movie to the ‘cheap and cheerful’ option of going for a stroll along the Yarra.

But despite these high levels of competition, South Pacific managed to have a stellar 2012 season in Melbourne’s Princess Theatre which kicked off a national tour that will still be running well into 2014. In fact, it has been so successful that the show is currently playing its second season in Sydney as audiences simply cannot get enough.

So what is the secret?

There are a number of factors such as:

  • The star power of Lisa McCune, Teddy Tahu Rhodes, Christine Anu, Gyton Grantley, Kate Cebrano, Daniel Koek, Eddie Perfect (and soon Mitchell Butel . . . Look out Perth!)
  • The guaranteed enjoyment as the musical is well-known and potential audiences can easily get their hands on a cast recording
  • The successful track record of the new interpretation on Broadway and the West End
  • Or even the quality that is represented in the Opera Australia brand

But I think that South Pacific still has one more secret weapon. And this secret weapon was created back when Rogers & Hammerstein wrote the show in 1949. Intrigued?

Quite simply, the show has a contemporary lead female character and an operatic lead male character. And furthering that idea, the lead female – Nellie Forbush played by Lisa McCune – sings contemporary musical theatre songs with a slight operatic twist and the lead male – Emile de Becque played by Teddy Tahu Rhodes – sings operatic style songs with a contemporary musical theatre twist.

A.K.A. – The show has very wide appeal. It offers an enjoyable time for musical theatre lovers who will attend to hear songs like ‘I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair’ and ‘Honey Bun’ and see Lisa McCune work her magic. And it offers an enjoyable time for opera aficionados who want to hear songs like ‘Some Enchanted Evening’ and ‘This Nearly Was Mine’ sung by Teddy Tahu Rhodes.

So by choosing a show like South Pacific, you get to pick your audience from the following market segments:

  • Musical Theatre audiences who have no interest in opera
  • Opera audiences who have no interest in musical theatre
  • The Crossover: People who enjoy both musical theatre and opera

Sounds like a pretty clever idea by Rogers & Hammerstein when they wrote it, and an intelligent idea by Opera Australia to mount the full scale production as the first of its kind from the company.

But what’s even more important is the fact that they are having another go next year with another Rogers & Hammerstein show The King and I. And guess what . . . it has the same secret weapon!

For more information on the current season of South Pacific or next year’s The King and I visit the Opera Australia website.

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