M’CHIGEENG––Rodgers and Hammerstein’s final collaboration, The Sound of Music, first opened on Broadway back in 1959. The backdrop is Austria during the Nazi takeover at the start of World War II. Maria is a would-be nun who is sent from the convent to become a governess to the seven motherless von Trapp children. Free spirited Maria and the rigid Captain von Trapp fall in love and make a daring escape over the mountains into Switzerland. It is a moving story of love, hope, and the power of music. There have been countless stage adaptations of The Sound of Music over the years, and the movie starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer is a much loved classic. It’s a daunting undertaking, but the cast and crew at Manitoulin Secondary School does not disappoint.
As the curtain rises we are treated to the harmonic voices of the Nuns and Choir of Nonnberg Abbey. The Sisters are discussing the merits of postulants who are hoping to take their vows. It is clear that Maria Rainier is a misfit. The scene changes to reveal a barefoot Maria in her beloved hills. From the first pure notes of The Sound of Music, April Torkopoulos as Maria captivates the audience with her charm. Ms. Torkopoulos is truly radiant in the role, and moves between joy and innocence, humour and sternness, with ease.
Mother Abbess, played by Cassandra Kuntsi with wisdom and compassion, sends Maria to become governess to Captain on Trapp’s children, advising Maria she must live outside the abbey before deciding to take her vows as a nun. On her arrival, Maria is treated to a militaristic display as the Captain introduces his children. The eldest, Liesl, perfectly acted by Kendra Jordison with both bravado and naiveté, marches forward. “I am sixteen and do not need a governess,” she announces.
The precocious Brigitta, played by Cameron Meawasige, arrives comically late and continues to delight throughout the evening. Maria defiantly returns the Captain’s whistle. “I don’t answer to a whistle,” she tells him, “and neither will the children.” The Captain later argues with Maria over the care of his children, but we see the beginning of his transformation when he hears the children singing.
The children fall under her spell from the first Do Re Me through The Lonely Goatherd, when all seven children run frightened into her room during a loud thunderstorm. Maria even begins to win over the standoffish Liesl when she keeps Lisel’s late night tryst with Rolf a secret. Eventually, Maria transforms the von Trapp family home from a place of strict rules and regulations to one filled with joy, laughter and music.
Every love story has an obstacle to overcome, and The Sound of Music is no different. Maximilian Dettweiler (played by Avery Byce) and Elsa Schraeder (played by Lauren Goddard) arrive for a visit. Ms. Schraeder has her eyes on marriage to the Captain. A comically scheming Max encourages the Captain to play both sides. In a very funny moment, Brigitta informs Maria that her father is in love with Maria and Maria is in love with him. Maria runs away to the abbey but is sent back by Mother Abbess following a strong performance of the favourite, Climb Ev’ry Mountain.
The children are especially convincing in their grief at the disappearance of Maria and their joy at her return. When Elsa leaves and Maria and the Captain are married, things inside the house seem right. Outside, however, the Nazis are encroaching and they want the Captain. The family must escape or face the consequences. Joshua Noble performs a heartwarming rendition of Edelweiss, a quietly heroic stand in the face of evil, in a concert organized by Max. Hiding out in the abbey following the concert, the family is discovered by the now Nazi Rolf, who does find his heart and allows them to escape.
The set is well designed and realistic. Scene changes are seamless and are well supported by the live band at the rear of the auditorium. Subtle lighting enhances the scenes. Thursday night’s production included a special sing-along with the audience during four of the most iconic songs: Maria, Favourite Things, Do Re Me, and Edelweiss.
The Sound of Music was the first production that Artistic Director Tom Scott worked on at MSS 30 years ago. It is fitting that it should be his last as he has now retired. Auditions were held in early October of last year and rehearsals began by the end of that month. The care and effort put into this show by cast, crew and MSS staff is evident. This is an iconic story, one that a majority of the audience is familiar with. To make it believable and witty, joyous and sad – to make this old story new again is indeed a tremendous feat, and they have certainly succeeded. This is a Sound of Music that will become one of your favourite things.