The Sound of Music
Review by Susie Conte
I will start this review with the shocking announcement that I am a huge fan of the movie and know every song by heart. I was really interested in how the stage show would stand up against the iconic movie. In the programme, Andrew Lloyd Webber (who revived The Sound of Music in 2006 after TV reality show How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?) tells us he did not want to follow the movie version, instead opting for the original theatre script. I needn’t have worried: the show is a big, bold, beautifully-staged, warm production. That being said, songs are in a different order; there are two new songs sung by Baroness Schraeder (Marina Prior) and Max Detweiler (David James) which do not seem to add much; and the iconic song “My Favorite Things” is not sung by Maria in the bedroom with the children, but rather by the Mother Abbess (Johanna Allen).
The role of Maria is a big one to fill, inviting inevitable comparisons to Julie Andrews, but multi-award nominated actress and violinist Amy Lehpamer is a charming, sweet, and funny Maria with a beautiful voice; her interaction with the children is lovely. Cameron Daddo as Captain von Trapp has a slightly thankless role; he’s essentially a cold character for most of the first Act, but he does have more to do in the second half. Daddo isn’t a particularly strong singer, nor did he have the nuance his role needs in the quieter moments. The love between Maria and the Captain wasn’t quite convincing, and there were times I felt they were just going through the motions. One of the best moments between them was when they sing for the Salzburg Festival before fleeing the country across the mountain. Daddo sings “Edelweiss,” and the song takes on a more powerful meaning with its placement which differs from the movie. The combination of striking Nazi imagery and the pathos of their having to leave makes their “Bless my homeland forever” very moving.
What really popped for me were the children: the show takes on an entirely local cast apart from Liesl (Stefanie Jones), and they were charming, funny, sweet and entirely flawless in their roles, holding the audience in the palm of their hands. There are some beautifully observed moments between the seven siblings and a lot of room for laughs. Stefanie Jones is a strong and confident singer, and the highlight of the show for me was “Sixteen Going on Seventeen” and its lovely dance with Rolf (WAAPA grad Du Toit Bredenkamp) in the gazebo. The nuns in the abbey have a larger role than in the movie and offer some light relief; they book-end the show with a hymn and candles, which is a lovely image. “Climb Every Mountain” sung by Johanna Allen brought the house down at the close of the second Act.
The set by Robert Jones is spectacular: the scenes move seamlessly into the next and there are some beautiful stage pictures. The almost full opening night audience was deeply engaged and appreciative with standing ovations, so the show will do well. I thoroughly enjoyed this beautifully conceived, slick production.