Festival Theatre, Fri 12 Aug
The Sound Of Music has always been a polariser in terms of musicals – either you can handle the syrupy sentimentality or you can’t. Those that can, however, were well rewarded last night by a beautifully designed production that showcased some of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s most celebrated tunes. A touring version of the London Palladium production, the scaled down staging was nevertheless successful, filling the Festival Theatre stage with suggestions of grandeur, from gloriously technicoloured hillsides to cloisters and cathedrals filled with singing nuns, the regal von Trapp family home and a disturbingly effective Nazi-drenched Austrian concert hall.
Amy Lehpamer effectively channels the energy and awkwardness of Maria Rainer, exhibiting the strong sense of comic timing needed for this role. Her strong soprano voice leant a youthful joy to her Maria, keeping unfair comparisons to Julie Andrews mostly at bay. Cameron Daddo’s Captain von Trapp was distantly elegant, stiff but never cold, his Edelweiss number under the Nazi gaze an especially touching moment. Marina Prior’s Baroness Schraeder is a warmer, less manipulative version of her film counterpart, yet her worldly ways still manage to provide an effective foil for Maria’s natural naiveté. As the practical, slightly self-absorbed Max Detweiller, David James is entertaining however his seemingly over the top reactions are a little jarring at times. The major highlight was without doubt Mother Abbess’ thrilling Climb Every Mountain, delivered with enormous emotional strength by operatic performer, Jacqueline Dark. With a voice and presence that almost lifts you from your seat, Dark’s rendition of this much adored piece was indeed a religious experience.
Other supporting cast members each added their stamp – Lorraine Bayly as no-nonsense housekeeper Frau Schmidt was a delight to watch, her considerable experience obvious in her complete command of every scene. John Hannan was a perfect pairing as scornful butler, Franz. Johanna Allen, Eleanor Blythman and Andrea Creighton were delightful as the nuns who quarrel over Maria’s suitability to take her vows. As Liesl, the eldest of the von Trapp children, Stefanie Jones probably came closest to channelling her filmic counterpart – the sweetness of her voice matching the character perfectly. Du Toit Bredenkamp played love interest Rolf rather more gawkily than we are used to seeing yet still managing to draw the audience in to the budding romance. The von Trapp children themselves were completely mesmerising – energetic, exactly hitting their marks, and with voices that defy their tender ages.
Not everything in this production was perfect – at times the script required actors to seemingly spin on a coin. Georg von Trapp dismisses the baroness and proposes to Maria within minutes – even the development of their feelings is not afforded the necessary stage time to truly allow the audience to invest in their emotions. The second act seemed even more rushed where character reaction times do not allow the audience to experience the moment before moving on.
The stage play is different to the film, with songs placed in different settings, songs not heard in the film and this may be sticking points for those who grew up loving the Hollywood version of the show. At the same time, songs written for the film have been purposely included in this stage version, in particular the beautiful, tender melody of Something Good. In all, this is a truly beautiful production, and worth every penny just to experience the breathtaking nuns’ chorus in Maria and Georg’s wedding scene. The standing ovation was heartfelt, enthusiastic and very well deserved.
Rosie van Heerde
The Sound Of Music continues at Festival Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre, at various times, until Sun 4 Sep.
Book at BASS on 131 246 and bass.net.au. Click HERE to purchase your tickets.
Images courtesy of James Morgan