The London Palladium production of Rogers and Hammerstein’s classical musical with its beloved songs (‘Do-Re-Mi’, ‘Climb Ev’ry Mountain’, ‘Edelweiss’) is now in Sydney and may bring the iconic, true story of the Von Trapp family to life for a new generation.
The highlights of this production are definitely the Von Trapp children. They are all ridiculously cute and execute sharp choreography and beautiful harmonies with precision and great energy. Extraordinarily, the Brisbane children only had 12 days of rehearsal before joining the core adult cast for technical and dress rehearsals.
Adult performances in this production of The Sound of Music are also good. Amy Lehpamer has a beautiful voice and plays a sweet Maria, and Jacqueline Dark as the Mother Abbess, sings a rousing rendition of ‘Climb Ev’ry Mountain’. Marina Prior and David James are fun as the Baroness Schrader and Max Detweiler (this stage production gives them a larger role with a couple of songs that are not in the movie). Cameron Daddo cuts a dapper figure as Captain Von Trapp, but his voice lacks a little strength, especially when contrasted with the rest of the cast. Stefanie Jones plays a delightful Leisel, the oldest Von Trapp child, 16 years after playing the younger sister Brigitta on the same stage.
Nevertheless, The Sound of Music is disappointing as a whole. The set is certainly functional, but its sparseness and painted backdrops make it appear cheap.
Of course, it was always going to be a challenge operating in the shadow of the iconic 1965 film. Since this production follows the original stage show format, fans of the movie may be slightly surprised (read ‘disappointed’) by songs that are in a different order and sung by different characters.
Its message is that an individual can make a change is certainly still relevant, but by no means a new take on the story. Here we come to the crux of the issue with this show: it’s nothing new. Yes, it is a nice night out at the theatre, especially for people who haven’t seen the movie or who absolutely love the movie, but for those who enjoy the movie (but don’t adore it) it falls flat. It both fails to reenergize the story or the characters, and is missing some favourite moments from the film (‘The Lonely Goat Herd’ is performed without puppets, for instance).
The Sound of Music is a decent production with a good cast- it’s just missing a spark.
Perhaps there is a problem with big budget musicals in general at the moment. There is a real resurgence of older musicals – in Brisbane we had Anything Goes and Les Miserables last year, and so far in 2016 we have had Cats and The Sound of Music. We Will Rock You and Singin’ in the Rain come later this year, and My Fair Lady opens in Sydney in August. Certainly it’s lovely and important to allow new audiences to access classic musicals. However, don’t we need a mix of old and new?
By the time we get Matilda to Brisbane in November this year, it will have been over a year since we saw a big budget musical written in the last decade (the last being Strictly Ballroom). What is happening? Why aren’t we getting new musicals here? It’s taken six years for us to get Matilda from London, and it will be six years by the time Melbourne gets The Book of Mormon next January (you can probably add another year or so for Brisbane). How long must we wait for A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder? For Hamilton? For American Psycho? Producer John Frost, can we have something fresh?