Alive and welcomed

The Sound of Music (Queensland Musical Theatre)

Twelfth Night Theatre

June 3 – 12

Perhaps best known for the film adaptation starring Julie Andrews, “The Sound of Music” is a perennially-popular musical standard. The last musical Rodgers and Hammersten created (Oscar Hammerstein passed away nine months after it opened on Broadway in 1959) is a long one, but one with lots of story and many musical reprises and, as Queensland Musical Theatre shows, it is still as entertaining as ever.

Based on the real-life tale of the von Trapp family and their escape from Austria on the eve of Nazi Germany’s annexation of the country in 1938, the story is of Maria (Lara Boyle), a woman who during her convent training is dispatched to be a governess for the strict Captain Von Trapp (Nathaniel Currie) and his seven children Liesl (Holly Komorowski), Friedrich (Josh Cochrane), Louisa (Freyer Griggs), Kurt (Beau Bruback), Brigitta (Darci Allen), Marta (Alessia Lily Monteverde) and Gretl (Harriet Straus). Her genuine nature means that Maria brings music and love back into the home, discovering herself how it can bloom even in the most unexpected places as she endears herself to the children and eventually their father, despite his courtship of Baroness Schraeder (Kate Retzki).

Things get political in Act Two as Nazism and the eventual occupation of Austria by Germany casts a more immediate shadow over all their lives with the fiercely patriotic Captain unable to agree with his music agent and producer friend Max (Kris Brennan) about acquiescence to the inevitable German takeover. Even amongst the seriousness of the von Trapps’ predicament, however, experience of the musical is filled with the songs we all know, which, in itself, presents a challenge. Still, this production shows how even a well-known and beloved musical such as this can be given a new life through fresh takes. In particular, Isabel Byrne’s choreography gives us a dynamic demonstration in numbers such as ‘Do-Re-Mi’, in which Maria teaches the children the basics of music, as well as her ‘The Lonely Goatherd’ attempt to distract their fears during a thunderstorm. Also enjoyable is the much-loved ‘So Long Farewell’ routine when the children say goodnight to party guests with a song, later reprised at a tense Nazi talent show. And Deian Ping’s costume design of hued colours also adds to the visual treats on stage.

The singing is sensational throughout, spoiled only by some on-occasion minor microphone issues. The opening number in the abbey with the nuns’ austere singing, powerfully led by Kathryn Bradbury as Mother Abbess, sets the tone. With a rich operatic, perfectly-controlled voice, the building melody of her inspirational solo ‘Climb Every Mountain’ becomes a glorious goosebumpy triumph into interval. And her contribution to the playfulness of the nuns’ complaints about Maria’s absentminded whimsy in ‘Maria’ shows her versatility. When the Mother Abbess joins Maria in song for ‘My Favourite Things’, it is, therefore a particular treat given Boyle’s own delightful vocals.

Both vocally and in performance, Boyle captures the lovable free-spiritedness of the failed-nun Maria. From the opening swell of its titular song as Maria frolics in the Austrian alps, she brings an effervescent energy to the iconic role. Her voice is crisp with joyful optimism, reassuring us from this early Act One number, that the cherised musical is indeed in safe hands. And while we celebrate her journey from the beginning, over time, Currie also endears the initially-uptight Captain to us, softening him in Act Two with undertones of vulnerability in an expertly-controlled performance.

Also worthy of particular mention is Quinn Chambers as Rolf, the first love of eldest daughter Liesl. His smooth voice is very easy to listen to, providing moments of lightness in ‘Sixteen Going On Seventeen’, our first glimpse at the pair’s courtship. Kristie Rabbitt makes for a wonderful Srn Margaretta, kindly excusing Maria’s flibbertijibbertry singing in abbey et al. The children, meanwhile are pure delight in bringing their respective personalities to life, especially Bruback who dances about with joyous enthusiasm, responding gushingly to Maria’s now-presence in their lives.

From its rapturous curtain call applause, it is clear that “The Sound of Music” still stands as a welcomed crowd favourite. Under conductor Julia Whiting’s musical direction, the orchestra effectively supports the performers with a nice sound balance, allowing us to be enthralled by the familiar melodies as much as the vocal performances. Indeed, when the already-abuzz packed audience collectively sings along out loud to the overture lead in to act two, our hearts are alive with the joy of its music.  

Photos c/o – Creative Street

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