She’s worn the tags of Australia’s ‘Golden Girl’, ‘Showbiz Darling’ and ‘Girl Next Door’ with a cheerful smile and plenty of grace, but Lisa McCune really thinks that her almost continuous work schedule in the fickle world of entertainment is down to luck and her training..
“I’ve been very fortunate. I never for a moment take that for granted because this industry relies so much on being in the right place at the right time and people believing in your talent. Learning the craft at WAAPA has meant that I am fit and able to complete a TV or film shooting schedule or do eight shows a week. I’ve been lucky,” she told Medical Forum.
Lisa, who grew up in Perth and attended Greenwood Senior High School, became the youngest graduate of the prestigious performing arts school, graduating in 1990 and immediately scoring work as the face of Coles Supermarket in a year-long TV and Press campaign. So was born the first McCune incarnation – Lisa the girl-next-door checkout-chick.
There have been many since, not the least the signature role that shot her to national fame – Constable Maggie Doyle in the TV series Blue Heelers when she was just 22. What flowed was an outpouring of love from the public awarding her with four Gold Logies.
But there was no way this pocket rocket was going to be typecast, despite the seven seasons as the country copper. When she wasn’t capturing hearts and baddies at Mount Thomas Police Station she was hitting the boards in musicals from Sondheim to rock bands.
Next month she returns to Perth to star in South Pacific, incredibly, for the first time since she left WAAPA 23 years ago.
“Time slips away quickly. I had hoped to come to Perth with The Sound of Music. I’d done the East Coast for seven months just after I finished Blue Heelers and I was absolutely exhausted. Though I wouldn’t have made the Perth season because I found out I was pregnant with my first baby after we closed the show in Brisbane.”
That was in 2001 and three children later with her husband Tim Disney, not even juggling motherhood and a busy performing career seems to slow her down.
“To be honest, having children has made me a better performer. I tend to look out at life rather than inwardly all the time. But as far as managing goes, I suspect a life in the arts is easier than for those women who have office jobs five days a week. I’m lucky I can take contracts that fit in around my family rather than the other way round.”
For the first part of their lives, McCune’s two sons and a daughter have had gypsy lives, travelling the country with their mother, but now school looms large.
“There are lots of wonderful things to learn on the road with the arts but I really want them to have the grounding of being at school for their own social wellbeing. So now it’s a matter of me flying in and flying out for work in short bursts. I don’t have any other guilty pleasures than work … work is my love, so I just make it work.”
Her children’s experience was the opposite of her own, which she describes as a “very suburban West Australian lifestyle with holidays by the beach and hanging out with friends”.
“I’d play netball on Saturday morning and watch movies in the afternoon. I even gave up singing and dancing lessons for a while to play netball but WAAPA was like turning on a light for me. I realised I was with the right people at the right time in my life.”
When Medical Forum spoke to Lisa, she was about to embark on a return season of South Pacific at the Sydney Opera House.
While she has done just about every musical going around, the 42-year-old has never worked with Opera Australia, the co-producer of the show along with theatre doyen John Frost. It has brought her face-to-face with opera star Teddy Tahu Rhodes in the role of Emile (of Some Enchanted Evening fame)
“South Pacific is an iconic musical and such a difficult piece to tackle. It’s needs an aesthetic like Opera Australia to bring out the beauty and opulence because they mount productions like this all the time.”
“We have been working with the show’s American director Bartlett Sher the past few days. He’s is a complete master and what really sets his South Pacific apart from others, is its depth.
He manages to flesh out every bit of the war with an ever-present sense of danger and urgent romance. He’s captured the essence of the period beautifully. But it was a dangerous time and at no point do you get the feeling that he’s let that disappear.”