I will start this review with the shocking announcement that I am a huge fan of the movie and know every song by heart. I was really interested in how the stage show would stand up against the iconic movie. In the programme, Andrew Lloyd Webber, who revived The Sound of Music in 2006 after a TV reality show looking for a Maria, tells us he did not want to follow the movie version but mostly used the original theatre script. I shouldn’t have worried. The show is a big bold beautifully staged warm production. That being said, songs are in a different order, there are two new songs sung by Baroness Schraeder and Max Detweiler which do not seem to add much, and one iconic song about favourite things is not sung by Maria in the bedroom with the children but rather by the Mother Abbess.
The role of Maria is a big one to fill, bearing inevitable comparisons with Julie Andrews. Amy Lehpamer is a charming Maria in this production. A multi-award nominated actress and violinist, Amy is a sweet and funny Maria with a beautiful voice. Her interaction with the children is lovely. Cameron Daddo as Captain von Trapp has a slightly thankless role. The Captain is essentially a cold character for most of the first Act, but he does have more to do in the second half of the play. I did not think Daddo was a particularly strong singer, nor did he have the nuance his role needs in the quieter moments, and I did not quite believe the love between Maria and the Captain. There were times I felt they were just going through the motions. One of the best moments between them was the end, when they sing for the Salzburg Festival before they flee the country across the mountain. Daddo sings “Edelweiss”, which takes on a more powerful meaning with its different placement from the movie. The combination of striking Nazi imagery and the pathos of their having to leave makes their “Bless my homeland forever” very moving.
What really popped for me were the children. The show takes on an entirely local cast for each city they move to (apart from Leisl) and they were charming and entirely flawless in their roles. They are funny and sweet and held the audience in the palm of their hand. There are some beautifully observed moments between the 7 siblings and there was a lot of room for laughs. Stefanie Jones as Leisl was a really strong and confident singer, and the highlight of the show for me was “16 going on 17” and the lovely dance with Rolf (WAAPA grad Du Toit Bredenkamp) in the gazebo. The nuns in the Abbey have a larger role than in the movie and they are some light relief. They book end the show with a hymn and candles which is a lovely image. “Climb Every Mountain” sung by Mother Abbess Johanna Allen brought the house down when it closed the second Act.
The set by Robert Jones is spectacular. The scenes move seamlessly into the next and there are some beautiful images. The almost full opening night audience was deeply engaged and appreciative and there were standing ovations at the end, so the show will do well. I thoroughly enjoyed watching the show, it was beautifully observed and a slick production, I just felt it lacked a certain something.