Culture Street

By Sophia Whitfield
Lisa McCune is the epitome of the girl next door. Graduating from WAAPA she made a name for herself at the age of 22 playing the role of Constable Maggie Doyle in Blue Heelers.

Lately she has returned to her musical theatre roots. Last year she played the role of Nellie Forbush to packed audiences in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical South Pacific. Following on from her success, McCune returns to Opera Australia once again playing opposite Teddy Tahu Rhodes. Rhodes takes on the iconic character the King of Siam, stepping into the shoes of the great Yul Brynner who played the role both on stage and in the 1956 film.

McCune plays governess Anna Leonowens and at a recent rehearsal she treated a media audience to a performance of the well known Getting to Know You. Surrounded by children, McCune looked quite at home as she guided her young charges around the make shift stage.

McCune said she deliberately hadn’t watched the 1956 film, which stars Deborah Kerr in the lead role, wanting instead to bring something of herself to the role. Her accent is a plum British one, much like Deborah Kerr’s, more in line with the accent of the time rather that today’s British accent. She had no vocal tuition, but says she based her new-found British accent on the Queen and Margaret Thatcher.

Although she has not seen the film, she has read the book and done a great deal of research to ensure she truly embodies the role. She says the musical is sometimes mistakenly interpreted as ‘light and frothy‘ , when in fact there are dark undertones to the story which she hopes to bring out.

The King and I opens in Brisbane this weekend and is followed by seasons in Melbourne and then Sydney.

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