I'm a freelance actor, travel writer, photographer, foodie and attention seeker living in the lower North Shore. Check out my blog at www.emmajaneexplores.com for more.
The hills are alive
Bankstown Theatre Company follows up their impressive production of Dogfight the Musical earlier in the year with a family favourite, The Sound of Music.
Rodgers & Hammerstein's most beloved show and their last musical written together before Oscar Hammerstein passed away was immortalised in the 1965 film of the same name, starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer. Audiences young and old have fallen in love with the story of the plucky, yet awkward Maria Rainer and the strict-with-a-heart-of-gold Captain von Trapp ever since.
For those unfamiliar with the story (and I assume this is not many of you), The Sound of Music chronicles the story of Maria, a young music-loving postulant who is sent to be a temporary governess to the seven children of a former Austrian naval office in Captain von Trapp. Maria and the children quickly form a bond over her passion for music and gradually music returns to the von Trapp household, warming even the heart of the strict Captain. All of this beautiful love story takes place during the annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany, bringing a dark and desperate undercurrent to the storyline with incredible results.
Director and Choreographer Glenda Kenyon has pulled together a solid production with a large cast. In a hefty, long musical such as this, with a dual cast child cast and such a sizeable number of performers, this is no mean feat. Whilst sections of the scenes can at times be laboured, I believe it would be safe to assume that a lot of this will tighten up as the run continues, but at around one hour and thirty minutes, Act One does seem exceptionally long. The choreography caters well to the abilities of the cast assembled, however, there are moments when it does feel that some of the film's iconic choreography has been translated straight onto the Bankstown stage. Whilst it would be nice to see something a bit more original in the choreography, the crowd evidently enjoy the nostalgia of seeing familiarity on stage and for the most part, it is well executed by the cast.
The set design is uncredited however is worth a mention for the incredibly professional von Trapp family home setting complete with staircase and french doors. Unfortunately, this magnificent setting is let down by some of the other set choices throughout the show complete with fairly clunky scenic changes. When Maria rolls around and twirls on the Austrian hills, the set is a projection of the hills that does not even fill the entire white screen behind her. There are a few moments like this that don't feel as coherent as they should.
Ian Buchanan is the musical director and he does a fine job helping the cast navigate the deceptively complex score. The orchestra, for the most part, sound tight and the vocals are strong. The work Buchanan has done with the children is impressive, as the seven von Trapps sound lovely all singing together.
Lauren Eade has the daunting task of tackling the role of Maria Rainer and at first, she struggles to capture the energy and lightness of the delightfully quirky postulant. Her rendition of 'I Have Confidence' comes across almost angry rather than as false bravado, however as she relaxes into the role a bit and begins to share the stage with the children she begins to open up.
Maria, Captain von Trapp and the children
Peter Sahlani as Captain von Trapp channels his inner tall, dark and handsome Christopher Plummer with some nice acting moments. Vocally, he is just okay however his characterisation of the Captain is enough to endear him to the audience. Dale Selsby performs the role of the Mother Abbess and displays a lovely soprano voice with her stirring rendition of 'Climb Ev'ry Mountain'.
The real highlight of the show, though, is unmistakably the seven von Trapp children. Each of the kids performing on the night I attended were simply adorable and displayed some fantastic energy and enthusiasm for their roles. In some scenes, they even elicited spontaneous rounds of applause.
All in all, The Sound of Music is a solid community theatre homage to the much-loved story of Maria, the Captain and the seven children who escaped the Nazi regime.