The hills are alive with a quality production

The hills are alive with a quality production

SHOW: The Sound Of Music
DIRECTOR: Jeremy Sams
CAST: Bethany Dickson, Andrew Schwartz, Janelle Visagie, Carmen Pretorius, James Borthwick, Taryn Sudding, Rhys Hewitt Williams, Malcolm Terrey
VENUE: Artscape Opera House until March 29
REVIEW: PETER TROMP

With so much turmoil in the world right now, the value of a classical entertainment like ‘The Sound Of Music’ really becomes apparent. What a treat it is to completely escape from the mess that is the outside world with a high quality production that positively radiates charm and passion – qualities we have come to expect from these localised productions of the musical world’s most well known fair. Of course the fun only lasts (or starts, depending on your point of view) until the Nazi’s show up.

It’s true what they say – Nazis really do ruin everything. For its first half, ‘The Sound Of Music’ is almost fairy tale like in its enchantment. Of course most of us know the songs and how catchy and beautiful they are, but the characters also are such fun archetypes that the grin that will almost involuntarily manifest on your face will not dissipate for one moment until the curtain falls upon the first half. And then the Nazi’s arrive.

‘The Sound Of Music’ – the musical production is very much a show of two halves. Where the first half is filled with characters for whom singing is a form of self expression and discovery, by the second half the situation in their physical environment deteriorates to the such an extent that singing literally becomes a mode of survival. The change in mood that this signalled in the audience on opening night was palpable.
But that’s also the beauty of the production. Whereas most of us become instantly disquieted whenever a swastika manifests itself – even in a fictional environment – the change in tone of the production ultimately serves to remind us how fragile the concept of civil society can be. (We were just reminded of this again this past week with events in the Ukraine.)

Telegraphing all of the various colours of ‘The Sound Of Music’s’ emotional palette is an impeccably cast company of players. James Borthwick and Janelle Visagie are especially winning as Max Detweiler and Mother Abbess respectively, while Taryn Sudding as Baroness Sudding brings a welcome emotional complexity to proceedings.
The kiddies who play the Von Trapp family (on the opening night they were Lilla Fleischmann as Gretl; Jemma Thomson as Marta; Nadia Fokkens as Brigitta; Gianluca Gironi as Kurt; Josie Cunnington as Louisa; and Adam Darren Ferguson as Friedrich) are an especially memorable bunch, every one of them adding a little something special and unique to the production. Not one of them put a foot wrong on opening night – when the pressure is at its craziest – which is a pretty awesome achievement. (The eldest Von Trapp child is played by professional actress Carmen Pretorius, who has a wonderful, iridescent presence.)

One thing that I hope will be a legacy of ‘The Sound Of Music’ is that it will put Bethany Dickson firmly on the map as a talent to be reckoned with. I have never seen the actress deliver a subpar performance, and here she plays as convincing a Maria Rainer as you could hope to see (save perhaps having a twenty-something Julie Andrews teleported here from the 1960s), capturing all of the virginal insouciance of the character, as well as her fleet mindedness when things get rough.
I’m sure fans of ‘The Sound of Music’ will be mightily pleased with this incarnation of the perennial favourite. It’s altogether the real deal, and definitely a step up from the untold number of schools and amateur productions that play themselves out in community halls across the Cape.

* Book at Computicket.