The Sound of Music: These hills are alive
- Written by Mary Alderson
The Sound of Music
Music by Richard Rodgers, Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
Book by Howard Lindsay & Russel Crouse
Suggested by “The Trapp Family Singers” by Maria Augusta Trapp
Directed & Choreographed by Timothy French
Musical direction by Steve Thomas
Performed by Jayme Armstrong and David W. Keeley et al
Drayton Entertainment, Huron Country Playhouse, Grand Bend
June 7 to June 22, 2013
The Sound of Music can be a daunting production to mount — it’s Rodgers and Hammerstein’s most familiar musical. Everyone knows story: a carefree, young nun is sent to be governess to the seven children of a very strict navy captain in Austria. She teaches the children how to sing, and in the course of events, the captain and the governess fall in love and marry. Nazi Germany takes over their beloved Austria, and the Captain is told he must join the German navy. To avoid this betrayal of their home country, the family escapes over the mountains to Switzerland.
Everyone knows the memorable score, as well: The Sound of Music, How do you solve a problem like Maria?, Do-Re-Mi, The Lonely Goatherd, So Long-Farewell, My Favourite Things, and the beautiful Climb Every Mountain are just some of the songs made famous by the movie starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer.
What most people don’t know is that the stage version, which came first, is not identical to the familiar movie. The original Broadway version opened in 1959, while the iconic movie with Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer wasn’t released until 1965.
Huron Country Playhouse stayed with the Broadway version, opening its 2013 season with The Sound of Music. A few things may seem strange to audience members familiar with the movie. The Mother Abbess and Maria sing the song “My Favourite Things” together at the Abby, when the Mother is supposed to be chastising Maria for being late. Later during the thunderstorm at the Von Trapp estate, when “My Favourite Things” is sung in the movie, the children rush into Maria’s room, frightened by the storm and sing “The Lonely Goatherd”. In the movie version, the children actually put on a puppet show about “The Lonely Goatherd”. In both these instances, the movie version seems to make more sense the stage show.
People come to The Sound of Music for the familiarity. I sat next to a friendly couple on opening night, who had gone to see the movie back in 1965, on their second date. It must have clinched the deal; they are still together! And with a cast of robust singers, Huron Country Playhouse delivers those beautiful, familiar songs, even if the order is slightly different than the movie.
Jayme Armstrong, a favourite at Huron Country Playhouse is a perfect Maria. Audiences will remember Jayme as Judy in last summer’s 9 to 5, previously as Rosemary in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, and as Guinevere in Camelot. Jayme was a finalist in CBC’s “How Do you Solve a Problem Like Maria?” so it’s exciting to actually see her in the role. She makes Maria especially child-like and playful in the beginning (she IS the flibbertigibbet mentioned in the nuns’ song), but then we see her mature into the mother of a ready-made family of seven children. Jayme will be back at Huron Country Playhouse later this summer as Mary Poppins.
David W. Keeley plays the iconic role of Captain Von Trapp. He is strict and harsh as the story begins, going through a transformation in reverse to Maria, becoming more playful throughout the events unfold, but then showing his strength when he hustles his family away from the Nazis.
Rebecca Poff as the Mother Abbess sings the show-stopper Climb Every Mountain. Her rich, full voice is moving as she fills the theatre with the beautiful song.
Keith Savage, perennial crowd-pleaser at Huron Country Playhouse, is perfect as Uncle Max, the self-centred promoter who finagles the family into performing at the concert. Savage brings humour to the intense situations when Nazism is brought up.
But it’s the children that really give this show its charm. They are each perfectly cast, and even look like a family. Each child is completely engaging, and all have exceptional stage presence: Leisl (Tess Benger), Friedrich (Peter Jones), Louisa (Aveleigh Keller), Kurt (Gabriel Sizeland), Brigitta (Claire Jones-Fright), Marta (Anna Bartlam) and Gretl (Lilly Bartlam). Tess Benger comes to the role of Leisl, after spending two seasons at the Charlottetown Festival in the coveted role of Anne in Anne of Green Gables.
The entire ensemble is filled with excellent singers, so the show fully lives up to its billing – The Sound of Music is filling the air around Grand Bend.
The Sound of Music continues with eight shows a week until June 22 at Huron Country Playhouse, Grand Bend. Tickets are available by calling the Box Office: or Toll Free , or check www.huroncountryplayhouse.com
A member of the Canadian Theatre Critics Association, Mary Alderson reviews shows at area theatres and posts blogs at www.entertainthisthought.com .