Review – The Sound of Music: revitalised
The wedding; Leisl and Franz and the Von Trapp children with Maria. Photos by James Morgan.
The Sound of Music
Music by Richard Rodgers
Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
Book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse
Directed by Jeremy Sams
Choreographer Arlene Phillips
Queensland Performing Arts Centre
Season: Until April 24. Duration: two hours 30 minutes including interval. Bookings: www.qpac.com.au or 136 346
In 1961 when The Sound of Music opened in London and New York it was declared “beyond the pale”, “sugar sweet”, even “nauseating in its sentimentality”. Back then I was with the majority: the sight of a pretty young novice nun running up a mountainside while a bunch of ancient nuns sang Climb Every Mountain was too much for me. I wouldn’t go near the show for many years. Even when I did, as a critic, it would be more a duty than a pleasure.
But with this production something great has happened. Fifty years on the show has grown up and the story of a family trapped by Hitler’s rampage through Europe has a gritty reality. The characters behave like real people and the ominous backdrop to the Von Trapp family’s fortunes is not softened.
There is genuine emotion and so the songs are more plausible. The children are cute and truly mischievous rather than goody two shoes that needed a good spanking.
And the lead characters have real feelings rather than mooning romanticism.
So now I am totally converted to a play that rather than become dated has magically moved with the times and has a new freshness.
This of course has a lot to do with casting and character interpretation.
Cameron Daddo is simply the best Georg Von Trapp I have seen. His quiet demeanour was strength of character and his stubbornness in the face of the inevitable Nazi invasion was a quality rather than silliness. He gently dominated the stage when he was there and was a perfect match for Amy Lehpamer’s delightful Maria.
She was a truly loving, open young woman whose frustration with the introvert Georg was so believable you really felt for her. And one of the joys of the play was the slow realisation of their love for each other.
This attention to detail also brought the other characters to life. We understood why the jolly Max Detweiler (David James) bowed to the Nazis and we didn’t despise him, we also felt sorry for Liesel’s would-be boy friend Franz rather than hate him for is sudden transition to bad guy and Rolf Gruber (Du Toit Bredenkamp) was a really unpleasant type and not a caricature of a nasty Nazi thug.
The younger children, played on the night by Luke Harrison (Frederich), Sophie Morman (Louisa), Sam Green (Kurt), Emma Louise Cobb (Brigitta), Amelia Ayris (Marta), and Dana Weaver (Gretyl), were superb, a truly professional bunch of young actors.
There was nothing cloying about those kids.
Because of this accent on reality the songs took on more emotion; there was a story behind Climb Every Mountain and Sixteen Going on Seventeen was a delightfully poignant duet with Leisl (Stefanie Jones) and Granz (Philip Dodd),
Stefanie was a particularly good Leisl.
Amy Lehpamer added a lot with her interpretation of the songs, there was the unadulterated fun of Favourite Things, strength in I have Confidence and of course the freshness of Sound of Music.
Cameron Daddo’s rendering of Edelweiss was close to heartbreaking. And Jacqueline Dark’s climactic reprise of Climb Every Mountain was a show-stopper.
The sets were cleverly designed quick-change arrangements, which meant there were no gaps in between the 14 different scenes in the two acts.
I was certainly entertained and moved by this terrific production and will look upon The Sound of Music differently now.