Monday, September 19, 2016

Musical: THE SOUND OF MUSIC (★★★★)

Music by Richard Rodgers
Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
Book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse
Presented by Andrew Lloyd Webber, David Ian, John Frost and The Really Useful Group
Directed by Jeremy Sams
Designed by Robert Jones
Music direction by Peter Casey
Choreography by Arlene Phillips
Burswood Theatre
Until October 9

In April 1965, The Sound of Music movie opened in Brisbane, where I was 11 and at boarding school, and the whole city swooned.
There was pandemonium. One woman saw it 100 times. We all got special boarder’s leave to see it.
All this for a Swiss cheesy, Vienna chocolate box of a musical, as anachronistic as lederhosen?
But nobody cared then, and I doubt anyone does now. The Sound of Music is both an “icky sticky” failure (as one critic described it) and a triumph. You can love it and laugh at it, all at once.
It belongs to its audience alone; all there is to judge is the justice each production does it.
And this one delivers in spades.

Robert Jones’s set of convent cloisters, schloss ballrooms, Salzburg concert halls – complete with genuinely creepy Nazi regalia – and, of course, hills that are alive, solves the thorny problems the Crown Theatre’s stage presents.
That’s helped by Jeremy Sams’s no-nonsense direction that keeps the show facing the front and reduces the background to two-dimensional eye candy.
Peter Casey’s 13-piece orchestra play lushly, the sound is particularly clean and well-balanced, leaving Richard Rodgers’ great melodies and the cast to do their stuff.
And they do it so well. Let’s start with the local kids, on this night Sebastian Coe, Bianca Thomas, Thomas Denver, Saoirse Gerrish, Claudia Drinkwater and little Luca Priolo (who needed only a tiny puppy to make the famous warning to actors come to life). Their parents should be proud.
Stefanie Jones is an ideal Liesl, and her Sixteen Going On Seventeen duet with the very talented Du Toit Bredenkamp is a highlight.
The estimable Lorraine Bayly and John Hannan have Frau Schmidt and Franz down pat, and Marina Prior, sleek and sexy as the Baroness, and David Wells, as the weak, ultimately heroic Max, make the most of the show’s only forgettable numbers, How Can Love Survive? and No Way to Stop It.
And then there’s the Mother Abbess and Climb Ev’ry Mountain, a song that can make you hyperventilate. Bravo, Johanna Allen!
Cameron Daddo is upright and handsome as Georg von Trapp (not musical theatre’s most rewarding role, though my companion, a 24-time veteran of the movie and confessed Plummerbitch, reckons the captain’s a bit of all right).
And any fear that Amy Lehpamer’s Maria would wilt in the shadow of Julie Andrews is completely dispelled. A little bit gangly, but suddenly beautiful, with a voice that easily soars, Lehpamer gives the lovely performance this treasure chest of a revival deserves.

This review appeared in The West Australian 17.9.16

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