Musical theatre / “The Sound of Music”, co-directed by Anthony Swadling and Alison Newhouse. At The Q, Queanbeyan, until March 21. Reviewed by BILL STEPHENS
FROM the moment Willum Hollier-Smith took the stage to welcome the audience and announce that he wouldn’t be playing Kurt at this performance (he was on crutches and did manage to sing beautifully as the Altar Boy later in the show) the audience sensed that this production was going to be special. And indeed it was.
Based on a memoir by Maria Von Trapp, “The Sound of Music” has been an audience magnet since its first Broadway performance in 1959. The combination of a love story involving worldly nuns, cute kids who sing like angels at the drop of a hat, nasty Nazis and one of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s best scores continues to prove as irresistible as ever, but especially as presented in this production where everyone on stage looks as if they are living every moment.
Novice co-directors, Swadling and Newhouse have obviously utilised the relatively limited resources of Queanbeyan Players wisely for their production, which successfully captures the sweep and heart of the source material.
The clever, superbly painted setting by Thompson Quan Wing, enhanced by a truly lovely lighting design by Jacob Aquilina, takes on a life of its own as components swirl around the stage to suggest a variety of different locales inhabited by the characters. Top marks to Rachel Laloz’s well-drilled stage-management team, who worked efficiently to accomplish these changes so skilfully that one wished at times for the stage lights to remain up so that the changes could be enjoyed as part of the action.
Nick Cossart’s sound design allows the audience to savour every line of dialogue and every lyric. Jodi Hammond has devised choreography so unobtrusive and so appropriate that it looks like the natural responses of the characters who wear Janette Humphrey’s elegant costumes as if they were born in them.
Lydia Milosavljevic is superb as Maria, successfully capturing Maria’s combination of conviction and humility and establishing an immediate bond with the Von Trapp children. Her sweet clear soprano made each of her songs a joy. Similarly Michael Jordan was excellently cast as Captain Von Trapp and the on-stage chemistry between the two made it easy to become swept up in their story.
Surrounding them, Veronica Thwaites-Brown, who has played Maria in a previous Queanbeyan Players production, was elegant and sophisticated as the Baroness Elsa Schrader and Terry Johnson gives his best performance to date as the devious festival director, Max Detwieler. Kate Liddiard captures the insecurities of “sixteen going seventeen-year-old Liesl, while Joss Kent (Friedrich), Sienna Heaver (Louisa) Ebony Gagel (Brigitta), Anneke Hollier-Smith (Marta) Edith Baggoley (Kurt) and Lola (Gretl) were as winsome and lovable a family as you could ever hope to meet.
Louise Gaspari was perfectly cast as Mother Abbess, bringing dignity and a superb singing voice to the role. Her singing of “Climb Every Mountain” deservedly stopped the show on opening night. She received excellent support from Sarah Powell (Sister Berthe), Dale Rheynolds (Sister Margaretta) and Lauren Welfare (Sister Sophia).
Sam Dietz (Rolf), Peter Smith (Franz), Maria Dennehy (Frau Schmidt) and John Potter (Herr Zeller) all contributed strong performances among the large cast.
However, the icing on the cake was the musical direction provided by Jenna Hinton and her excellent orchestra. The singing of the nuns in the “Preludium”, “Gaudeamus Domino” and “Confitemini Domino” was arresting, as was that of the children.
If this review sounds like a rave… then you’re right! Queanbeyan Players have provided many fine productions over the years but this production of “The Sound of Music” will stand among their best.
Because covid restrictions currently only allow 75 per cent audience capacity, all tickets for the season are sold out. However Queanbeyan Players have arranged a live-stream of the show on March 20. Details of how to watch this livestream is at queanbeyanplayers.com