Despite damning photographic evidence, Australia's acting sweetheart Lisa McCune has distanced herself from claims she is romantically involved with New Zealand opera singer Teddy Tahu Rhodes, her leading man in the ongoing production of the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical South Pacific.
The mother of three and her twice-married co-star were snapped by paparazzi walking hand in hand and then kissing in an inner city alleyway in Sydney - the photo spread was published in Australia's Woman's Day magazine.
McCune faced a media call in Brisbane yesterday, where the production relocates in December, and it was a far-from-convincing performance when she deflected the obvious question about her off-field relationship with the former accountant.
She would not comment on the incriminating images and intimated the couple were staying in character as Nellie Forbush and Emile de Becque. Their on-stage chemistry was attributed to the script, not a personal connection. Their off-stage rapport was off limits.
"The script is really beautiful, the script is so well-constructed," the former Blue Heelers star explained.
"Rodgers and Hammerstein ... are great technicians, so they know how to manufacture that for the audience."
That is not what her audience hoped to hear at the media call and co-star Daniel Koek also kept to the script when quizzed on the relationship between McCune and Rhodes.
It was, he said, nothing more sinister than great acting.
"Lisa's such a great actress that she's giving him (Rhodes) so much to work with, he's playing off of it and that's where it comes from," Koek said before a publicist shut down the line of questioning.
McCune, who has been in a relationship with husband Tim Disney for 12 years, split her time between her Melbourne home and Sydney where South Pacific opened on August 11.
She was photographed with Disney and their children in Melbourne last Tuesday but two days later was back in Sydney and seen dropping Rhodes off at his city hotel.
A source close to the production said McCune and Disney had been separated for some time although the couple have not yet confirmed the split.
Rhodes was first married between 1989-96 and then wed American mezzo-soprano Isabel Douglas in December 2008. The couple have a son and are understood to be separated.
Christchurch-born Rhodes, who turns 46 tomorrow, won New Zealand's Mobil Song Quest in 1991 which enabled him to study at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London.
He returned to New Zealand and a career in accountancy but then focused on performing arts and made his international operatic debut as Dandini in Opera Australia's production of La Cenerentola in 1998.
He has sung in several world and Australian premiere performances including The End of The Affair, Dead Man Walking and A Midsummer Night's Dream.
- © Fairfax NZ News