Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music brought laughter and song to the Queen Elizabeth Theatre opening night. I brought my boyfriend’s seventeen year old son to his first Broadway show last night and we enjoyed singing along to songs such as “My Favourite Things” and “Do-Re-Mi” long after the show concluded.
After some minor mic and spotlight issues, the show settled in for the night opening at the Abbey with standout performances by both Mother Abbess played by Lauren Kidwell and Maria played by Jill-Christine Wiley. The musical has slight deviations from the movie that I was unprepared for but that worked well for pacing and plot development of the show. A particularly nice change was learning Mother Abbess also grew up on the mountains and hearing her relearn my favourite song, “My Favourite Things” with Maria early in the play.
Other changes from the popular movie included the more prominent and humorous roles of the butler and housekeeper played by Isaac Ryckeghem and Stephanie Gray, as well as enjoying performances such as “How Can Love Survive” and “No Way to Stop it” from Melissa McKamie as the confident and wealthy Elsa Schrader, Captain von Trapp’s love interest and Jake Mills as Uncle Max. I always enjoy the familiar with a dash of new and the musical songs not from the movie kept the show exciting and fresh.
Unlike the movie, there were no pranks by these von Trapp children on Maria, though we learn of their past indiscretions on previous governesses, instead they start off with song and dance. I loved the inclusion of the “Do-Re-Mi” hand gestures in the performance, as I remember learning these as a child and had long forgotten most of them. We were both pleased at the casting of the von Trapp children with age matching as best as possible. It is always a delight to see young, talented performers in child roles and these youngsters were no exception.
The young Madeleine Guilbot as Gretl started with a few screams and I wondered how much she would perform, but soon she stole the show yodelling in “The Lonely Goatheard” and sleepily singing her part in “So Long, Farewell”. The charming Arick Brooks plays Kurt accompanied by Landon Brimacombe as the older brother Fredrich. Kelsie Ward plays the eldest daughter Liesl perfectly, with ‘no need for a governess’ attitude whilst seeking guidance and advice from Maria as she navigates her young love with the messenger Rolf, played by the inviting Chad P. Campbell. The other three sisters fit their parts respectively with Katie Grgecic as the quick-witted, smarty-pants Brigitta, Maya Karp as mischievous Louisa and Amaryllis C. Miller as young Marta. Mike McLean is a young Captain von Trapp and the chemistry between him and Wiley adjusted accordingly as their relationship moved from that of Captain and Governess to lovers.
While Act I covers Maria’s move into the von Trapp family’s life and back to the Abbey again, Act II brings them all back together again for a wedding and a journey to maintain loyalty to their Austrian roots despite German take over. The political piece in the play is underlying and does not overpower the fun, family-friendly focus. Although there is one scene near the end where the family performs “Do-Re-Mi”, “Edelweiss” and “So Long, Farewell” at the Concert Hall with a bright red backdrop that fills the entire stage with five large Nazi symbols, the rest of the political messages are embedded in the bigger story of family, life and love through musical song and dance.
The set design was simple, but satisfying with movable walls to easily transition from the Abbey to the von Trapp’s mansion. I especially enjoyed the transparent walls to show inside and outside the home. We enjoyed the lighting and use of shadows during the wedding scene as well. My favourite set however, was the end as the family hides in the Abbey gardens. The darkness was lit up with the mountain backdrop and bright evening sky as the family treks singing up the mountainside. It was a beautiful finale to an incredible show.
If you are looking for a family friendly show with familiar tunes and laughter, don’t miss checking out The Sound of Music while it is in Vancouver this week until September 17th at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre.