The Sound of Music. Music by Richard Rogers. Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II. Co-directors Anthony Swadling and Alison Newhouse. Musical director Jenna Hinton. Choreographer Jodi Hammond. Queanbeyan Players. Bookings www.theqnet.au or 02 6285 6290. To March 21.
It is great to welcome Queanbeyan Players' exuberant production of The Sound of Music after a 16-month rehearsal period where, as the programme notes sadly make clear, COVID was only one of the difficulties. Given the easing of constraints on theatre, the preview was packed and pretty well turned into an opening night.
The stage version doesn't open with Maria on a hilltop but with the mighty unaccompanied Preludium of the nuns. And the nuns, led by Louise Gaspari in a well-sung performance of humour and considerable authority as the Mother Abbess, are a formidable bunch. "Climb Every Mountain" in Gaspari's hands is definitely an exhortation that young novice Maria (Lydia Milosavijevic) believably takes to heart.
Elegant materialistic business woman Elsa ( Veronica Thwaites-Brown) and cynical entrepreneur Max (Terry Johnson) have a couple of songs on stage that did not make it to the film ("How Can Love Survive" and "No Way to Stop It"). Sharp performances here, especially from Thwaites -Brown as Maria's rival for the Captain's hand. There's a stronger awareness perhaps than in the film of the the social and political situation as Austria contends with the Nazi invasion of 1938.
But there's never any real doubt that the Captain and Maria will survive both Elsa's manipulations, Max's cynicism and the Anschluss. Michael Jordan makes a straightforward Captain von Trapp sung and acted with some sense of humour and a great love for his children. Milosavijevic's Maria is full of energy and compassion and lovely clear singing and, importantly, a top-notch rapport with the seven children at the heart of the show.
The children are as strong and disciplined a family as you could wish for. There's understandably some double casting, some presumably triggered by the original Kurt's (Willum Hollier-Smith) twice-broken leg. (I saw "Family 2"; they share performances with "Family 1".) Kay Liddiard makes a very warm Liesl, clearly more than a match in "I am Sixteen Going on Seventeen" for Sam Dietz's immature Nazi telegram boy Rolf. Particularly striking was the wise and mature performance by Erin Stiles as Brigitta (Family 1 Ebony Gagel), the sensitive daughter who can see into people's hearts.
The staging is, of necessity, fairly basic but evokes time and place, and you will see mountains. The lighting frankly is often more suited to a rock opera than a straight musical and the abbey appears at times to be on fire as the smoke machine takes over. Cross-fades to smooth out scene changes would fix the drop in energy that can occur during a blackout, no matter how vigorously the orchestra is playing. Maybe dress the stagehands as nuns, since they feel like the force underlying the show, and leave the process entertainingly visible.
The marriage scene is theologically questionable (where's the priest?) but the apparent officiation of the huge tribe of nuns and children seems right somehow, as Maria and the Captain put on their rings.
The orchestra is large, live, and regrettably invisible in the Q's pit but tops in its playing, and driving the show under Jenna Hinton's true and capable conducting.
Queanbeyan Players' The Sound of Music may have been long delayed but has arrived triumphantly.
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