Songs I’ve been singing since I was a toddler,
Daddos who only improve as they’re older,
Nuns who sing opera, with physics degrees,
These are a few of my favourite things!
I bet you can’t guess which celebrated family musical I’ve just been to see? Ok, you probably can. The latest big Australian touring production of The Sound Of Music is in Brisbane for the next few weeks, with Melbourne to follow, and I was lucky enough to check it out last night.
If, like me, you’ve watched the movie version annually (at least!) since you were born, you’ll have a very clear picture in your mind of what it should look like. This production shares plenty of the familiar scenes and songs, but is also strikingly different at times – so be prepared. It keeps the spirit of the original stage show, circa 1961, which included extra songs, and songs in a different order, from the film.
The film remains the most successful movie musical of all time, so it’s no wonder its iconic images are lodged in our minds. This must make it very difficult for actors to make the roles their own, with such enormous boots to fill!
Luckily Amy Lehpamer as Maria does a stirling job. There is a definite nod to the mannerisms Julie Andrews deployed to give Maria the perfect combination of courage and naivety, but enough individual flair to ensure this is no mere imitation. Lehpamer’s considerable vocal talent is clear from the first note and she owns the stage at all times.
If singing’s your thing, the other voice that will make an impression is that of Jacqueline Dark in the role of the Mother Abbess. With a stellar career in opera, cabaret and musical theatre to draw from (and a physics degree, according to her bio!) she brought a tear to my eye with her moving Climb Every Mountain. She also led some haunting choral singing, conjuring the imposing and reverent atmosphere of a grand European abbey. No mean feat in a modern, inner city Australian theatre!
Cameron Daddo (swoon!) is appropriately straight-laced and charismatic as Captain Von Trapp. I have fond memories of Daddo appearing in the first professional stage musical I ever saw, the soulful Big River, which my Dad took me to some time in the late 80s! My musical-loving Dad was my ‘date’ for this production, too, which was cool. Daddo remains as dashing as ever!
In other key roles, Marina Prior is a sassy Baroness and national treasure Lorraine Bayly pops up as Frau Schmidt (the housekeeper). I spent the performance thinking Bayly had really thrown herself into physically creating the character, who was stooped and hobbled when she walked. Only later did I hear that the poor woman broke her foot during previews and was doing her best to ensure the show could still go on! That’s a seasoned professional for you!
At the other end of the experience spectrum is the rotating cast of super talented youngsters who play the Von Trapp children. All who performed on our night were excellent. They have some very complicated choreography to work with, not to mention bringing to life songs that EVERYONE knows. If you make a mistake someone will notice – but these kids were spot on.
If you are taking your own kids, prepare them for the fact that some parts are different from the film and that it is a restrained sort of musical. When you think about it, there are no raucous dance numbers or colourful special effects in The Sound Of Music, so be sure the kids are ready for a beautiful, romantic, sometimes funny but mostly fairly serious night at the theatre.
I thought the production missed an opportunity by not including a sing-a-long at the end. They got a standing ovation and enjoyed many bows at curtain call, but I know the little people around me were hoping for a chance to belt out ‘favourite things’ one more time. Be sure to pop the songs on your iPod for the drive home!
The Sound Of Music is at Brisbane’s QPAC until late April, with other cities to follow. Visit the official Australian production website here.
I was gifted tickets to see the show, but all opinions are my own.