Friday, October 25, 2013

Sydney and South Pacific

Instead of just visiting the Sydney Opera House, we thought we should also take in a show.

We vaguely recalled South Pacific the movie and decided to give the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical a go. It was staged at the Joan Sutherland Theatre with a cast of 40 and 33 musicians and we got centre seating to boot.

When the orchestra struck up the South Pacific overture before the curtain was raised, quite a number of the audience in the front row got up to swarm around the pit to investigate the source of the music.. Being a little rough around the edges myself, I was tempted to join but was prevented from embarrassing my wife because centre seating meant having to negotiate more than 20 seats with “short-haul, no-frills airline” legroom to reach the aisle on either side.

An excellent musical, the highlight of our holiday down under!

Still, I have a little rough around the edges comment to make.

When the male lead, Teddy Tahu Rhodes opened up with his booming baritone I thought it was a mismatch to the sweet female lead, Lisa McCune (who like Sarah McKenzie, is a graduate of the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts). But there was great chemistry between these two on stage. In fact, the pair is being considered for the lead roles in another Rodgers and Hammerstein classic, The King and I, which will be staged late next year. Things seem to be runningsmoothly offstage too for the married pair. 

During intermission, I ended in a long queue to the gents. Jørn Utzon must have not factored in baby boomers when he submitted the winning design for a national opera house in Sydney in 1957. The crowd that night were mainly ageing baby boomers, I am sure it is the same for most performances, many with larger normal prostate glands that accounted for the slow turn around at the 'little room'
Among the many excellent performers, I was particularly attracted to Christine Anu who played the role of the enterprising Tonkinese called Bloody Mary. Bloody Mary had to tackle racism, sexual discrimination and bondage in her quest for a better life. Her body language, accent and areca nut stained teeth bear an uncanny resemblance to a Mak Ee Poh (eldest maternal grand aunt in Peranakan-speak) in the extended family of the people who once lived next door to my grandmother in remote Teluk Anson. The last I remember of this Mak Ee Poh was of her trying to match make one of the many nieces to a widowed senior clerk of a tin mine in Ipoh to give her a better life away from this backwater.

From her dark complexion, I had assumed Christine is South Indian. Well, Anu or Anusuya in full, was my Locum pharmacist and she is Indian Malaysian. Thus I am pleasantly surprised to know that Christine is of Torres Strait Island descent.

Christine Anu studied at the National Aboriginal and Islander Skills Development Association (NAISDA) and graduated with an associate diploma of dance in 1992. Since graduating from NAISDA, Christine has performed both in Australia and overseas with Bangarra Dance Theatre and the Aboriginal and Island Dance Theatre. Christine is a multi-award winning recording artist, including ARIA Song of the Year for My Island Home

Well done Christine!


The Tonkinese are people from north Vietnam who were brought to the island to work with cows and coconuts as indentured servants to the French planters. Their lives were extremely hard, and their five-year contracts were unilaterally extended indefinitely by the French after the start of the Second World War.

Peranakan Chinese and Baba-Nyonya are terms used for the descendants of late 15th and 16th-century Chinese immigrants to the Indonesian archipelago and British Malaya (now Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore).

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