THE SOUND OF MUSIC. Music by Richard Rodgers. Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II. Directed by Jeremy Sams. Musical director: Kevin Kraak. Choreographer: Arlene Phillips. With Carmen Pretorius, Andre Schwartz, Janelle Visagie, Jonathan Taylor, Haylea Heyns, Zoe Beavon, Michael McKeeking, Malcolm Terrey, Rika Sennett and more. Artscape.
KAREN RUTTER reviews
Who would have thought that a 1959 musical about a singing nun would go on to become an Oscar-award-winning movie and one of the world’s most popular – and well loved – productions of all time? Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music still manages to retain a fabulous ranking nearly 60 years since its launch, and watching it again this weekend at Artscape, I was reminded why this is so.
Firstly, the story combines a number of elements that are hard to resist: Set in Austria, a spirited, feisty novice nun takes a job with a steely, widowed Captain as governess to his seven children. First she wins over the hearts of the children, and then that of the Captain, and they become a family. But before they can all settle down, the Nazi anschluss of Austria takes place. The Captain refuses to fight in the Navy under the Germans, and the family flee to Switzerland. So there’s romance, drama, and even comedy in the mix.
Secondly, there’re the characters: such wonderful, memorable personalities from Maria herself, who is optimistic, caring, and enthusiastic; Captain von Trapp, a man of principle whose stern exterior covers a loving interior; the Mother Abbess at Maria’s convent, whose wise (and witty) take on life is a breath of fresh air; the hustling Max Detweiler, keen to make a buck whenever he can; and, of course, the seven mini-stars of the show, the adorable Von Trapp children.
And then, the music. The songs. Be honest – how many of you do not know the opening bars of The Sound of Music, My Favourite Things or Edelweiss? I realised that I recognised (and knew most of the words to) just about every song in the 14 scenes of the play. And I’m sure I was not the only one. To create such a memorable score and lyrics is remarkable.
So you have all these elements, just awaiting a talented team to bring them to life. And I’m so proud to say that this South African company does full honours to the production. The version staged at Artscape is Pieter Toerien’s presentation of the Andrew Lloyd Webber/David Ian/Really Useful Group production that opened in 2006, and it’s an impressive take. The set, costumes and lighting are gorgeous and also really clever, managing to capture an era as well as an area – the Austrian countryside, circa 1938. The mini-orchestra, an eight-piece under the direction of Kevin Kraak, is perfectly on point. And the cast is simply super.
The ensemble gets the job done, with style. Andre Schwartz does a comfortable job with Captain Von Trapp, as does Haylea Heyns as Baroness Schraeder, his would-be wife. Jonathan Taylor brings a twinkle to the role of Max Detweiler, and the trio of Sisters, Maryanne van Eyssen, Monique Weich and Samantha Aria, have a swinging style. But it is the two strong female roles that garner the most attention – Janelle Visagie as the Mother Abbess, who turns in a beautifully-voiced performance with a charming, engaging presence; and Carmen Pretorius as Maria, who with her winsome features, bobbed hair and captivating vocals, takes on the legacy of Julie Andrews and gives it her own, enchanting twist. It’s fair to say she carries a big load of the show – and does it with aplomb.
The Von Trapp children
But let’s not forget the component who share the other load of the show – the Von Trapp children. And here again, one was blown away by the level of talent seen on stage. Zoe Beavon as oldest child is the only “permanent” member of the siblings, and she has a lovely air on stage. The younger members of the cast rotate their nights, so I can only speak for the date I was there, but little James Grieve as Kurt was particularly captivating, already showing his triple threat capabilities. And of course Gretl (in this case admirably played by seven-year-old Lara Smit) gets to steal everybody’s heart. In all, a very accomplished turn by the youngsters.
What more can one say? This version of The Sound of Music is an absolute delight. It’s imaginatively staged and beautifully performed. And I guarantee you’ll be humming at least one of the songs when you walk out. If you have family – any kind of family – bring them along. You’all going to love it.
What: The Sound of Music
Where and when: Artscape from 6 to 27 May 2018