With the melody of ‘Do-Re-Mi’ so woven into our subconscious, having listed our ‘Favourite Things’ and having been ‘Sixteen Going on Seventeen’ ourselves, The Sound of Music can easily evoke nostalgia rather than create its own memorable impression.
In the production that has just opened at the Artscape however, the delightful von Trapp youngsters, the slickness of the scene changes (with rolling mountains morphing into the Abbey and then into the grand von Trapp family villa and back again), the virtue and vigour of Maria (Bethany Dickson) and the acute attention to detail from the Nazi uniforms to the blue bows in Gretl’s hair, all go far beyond simply adding to the magic.
Surprisingly I was most engrossed by the wedding processional scene in the Abbey. When I might otherwise have taken the opportunity for a quick doze (as the convent scenes in the film allow for) I instead found myself quite magnetised by the powerful harmonies of the ensemble of nuns behind the iron bars and the magnificence of the glimmering candles they held against the dimly lit stage.
Mother Abbess, played by Janelle Visagie, received the second biggest round of applause (to Maria) and deservedly so. Her eyes glistened with passion and the purity of her voice, spoken and sung, sent an awed hush across the audience, adding even more to the sacred scenes in the Abbey. In closing Act One with ‘Climb Ev’ry Mountain’, the crucifix around her neck caught the light in the most unintentional of ways, and danced about reflecting the spellbound expressions of the entire Opera House audience.
The von Trapp children are full of life, especially young, gutsy Gretl (9 year old Lilla Fleischmann) who continued to dance and sing even when her bow fell to the floor and she was quite alone at the front of the stage. Andre Schwartz as Georg von Trapp at times comes across as distinctly South African in comparison to the practised, proper accents of the rest of the cast. But what his dialogue lacks he more than makes up for with his sublime singing, particularly in the gently powerful ‘Edelweiss’. Dickson’s silvery voice and golden heart are impossible not to love, and her performance has just the right balance of purity and ardour.
The audience stood to cheer during the final notes of the nuns’ reprise of ‘Climb Ev’ry Mountain’ as the von Trapp family paused atop a slab of rock and the lights projected a fantastic sunset behind them.
In this production of The Sound of Music director Jeremy Sams has flawlessly captured the joy of the original production whilst successfully adding his own dynamic artistry. Add it to your list, under “bright copper kettles”.
The Sound of Music is running at the Artscape Opera House until 30 March 2014.