By Rodgers and Hammerstein
Directed by Christopher Renshaw
Designed by Brian Thomson
Costumes by Roger Kirk
Princess Theatre, Melbourne
Some people dismiss musicals as meaningless fluff and, watching some of the recent jukebox shows, they could well be right. But they should look again at the shows from Rodgers and Hammerstein. Last year we had a revival of South Pacific and this year we have a revival of this Tony Award-winning Australian production from 1991.
It is a luscious and sumptuous feast for the eyes. Elephants are everywhere as are crystals, and the costumes are exquisite. The performances are terrific, with the lovely Lisa McCune shining again as Anna, and while she performs and sings really well I wish she had been a bit more British — but perhaps I am wanting too much Deborah Kerr.
In the current production, Lou Diamond Phillips plays the King, replacing Jason Scott Lee, and in Sydney he will be played by Teddy Tahu Rhodes. Diamond Phillips played the role on Broadway, and while he can’t really sing, he is a surprisingly formidable actor. His King is sly and strong and his death is really moving.
I saw it at a matinee, and noticed a couple of the singers had trouble with their top register, but that was a minor problem.
This play deals with male/female relationships and power within that as well as the roles of women in society. It also deals with slavery, and the presentation of The Small House of Uncle Thomas (Uncle Tom’s Cabin) is one of the many highlights of the show.
Unlike modern musicals where they contrive to have everyone on their feet for the final song this one finishes with a death and no song but it is still Something Wonderful.