Saturday, 25 March 2000

The Sound of Music, March 25, 2000

 Music and lyrics by Rodgers & Hammerstein, book by Lindsay & Crouse
 at Princess Theatre from March 25, 2000
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

For 40 years, The Sound of Music has been breaking box office records. This Australian remount of a new Broadway production, starring Lisa McCune, will be no exception.

The Rodgers and Hammerstein songs are inspired, despite Oscar being seriously ill when he wrote the last song, Edelweiss.  Will we ever again see the likes of such musical collaborations ?

It is almost impossible not to sing along with the title song, with the nuns solving "a problem like Maria" or the children singing "a few of my favourite things." R and H created the hilariously silly yodelling song, "Lonely Goatherd", and the youthful love song, "Sixteen going on Seventeen."

Howard Lindsay  and Russel Crouse,  who wrote the book, strike a delicate balance between humour and drama. They incorporate into the simplicity of the alpine life of the Von Trapp family and the nuns of the Abbey, the insidious march of Nazism into peaceful and fun-loving Austria.

The moment three enormous red flags, emblazoned with swastikas, drop from the roof and spotlights search the auditorium, the horror or Nazism is palpable.

My musical highlight was always "Climb Every Mountain". International opera singer, Eilene Hannan as Mother Abbess, with her rich, mellow voice, gives it the poignancy, dignity and drama it demands.

Lisa McCune is delightful as the ebullient Maria and the crowd applauded like seals her every move. Her voice is light with a good upper register but it is her charming persona which carries the role.

The fine cast includes John Waters as the stoic Captain, musical theatre celebrity, Anne Wood  as lovelorn Frau Schraeder, June Salter  as Frau Schmidt and ever-popular Bert Newton as the cheeky Max Detweiler.

The children charmed the pants off the audience with their fresh unaffected naivete as they learn to sing "doe, a deer or in the sweet "So Long, Farewell" But it is the nuns' chorus which wins the award for vocal beauty.

The orchestra, under Peter Casey, is impeccable and direction by American Susan H Schulman, balances comedy and drama perfectly and is complemented by Michael Litchefeld's  choreography. Heidi Ettinger's set captures the majesty of Salzburg, the Abbey and home and its alps which lower over the entire story.

See the show, hire the movie, buy the music - then sing it around the piano all night.

by Kate Herbert

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