Oct 2, 2017

[Theater] The Sound of Music (Lunchbox Theatrical Productions) Review

It's easy to underestimate The Sound of Music as it's a pretty established musical that more people remember as a movie than a stage play. And don't get me wrong, the movie is a brilliant piece of film making, but it's also a very different entertainment experience versus a live performance. You can't really compare one to the other but I suppose some degree of comparison remains impossible.

And as a long-time musical junkie, I'll admit that I've seen the movie version of The Sound of Music probably more than is healthy. But that's just how things turned out and I have no regrets celebrating the works of Dame Julie Andrews.

But this significant exposure to the movie had me underestimating what a stage production off the same story might be like. But thankfully I got tickets for this touring London West End Production as part of a Ticketworld bundle offer together with West Side Story since the actual play turned out to be one of the best that I've had the pleasure of watching in quite a while.

Synopsis: The Sound of Music is a Broadway musical with music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II and book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse. This Lunchbox Theatrical Productions touring production was directed by Jeremy Sams and was staged at The Theatre at Solaire from September 27 - October 22, 2017.

In Salzburg, Austria, we meet the nuns of the Nonnberg Abbey and how the Mother Abbess (Janelle Visagie) wonders what to do with young Maria (Carmen Pretorius), a postulant who is often taken to singing and spending her time on the hills near the abbey. The Mother Abbess then decides to send Maria to the home of Captain Georg von Trapp (Nicholas Maude) to act as a governess to his 7 children for a few months. It's also a chance for her to re-experience the world outside the Abbey before she takes her vows as a nun.

She arrives to find that the Captain runs his household like a ship down to specific whistle patterns used to summon each of his children. He tends to spend months away from the home, thus relying on various governesses to handle raising the children. But each has resigned in exasperation and thus now it falls to Maria to figure out how to reach out to these disciplined children. Naturally, she turns to music.

What I Liked: Okay, I think one of the most striking elements of this production has to be the beautiful dynamic set that they created that is both visually stunning and yet versatile enough to support to the story in a variety of ways. The use of old theater tricks in new ways such as the screen curtain that is opaque when you project light from the side of the audience but becomes transparent when lit from the stage made for some great images. And the way set pieces would come in and out as a transition device along with simple rotations of panels to help illustrate the passage of time were all used to maximum effect to make things more real and still tell the story.

And of course we have to discuss the amazing cast they put together for this show as they were all brilliant singers and amazing actors. I can't remember a number that I didn't fully enjoy as the children were all so endearing and talented and every member of the ensemble was just so amazingly present in the production. That big opening number with the nuns sent chills up and down my spine and the end of the show was pretty amazing as well.

What Could Have Been Better: It's hard to think of things that I'd want to change in this production given how much I enjoyed the show. I could nitpick about annoying seatmates who all rushed to take photos during curtain call, but it's not like the theater company has anything to do with that. I could complain about how terrible the parking setup is at Solaire as the queues to get in and out of the parking structure are bananas, but again that's not a production concern.

The show is just amazing and they even found a way to handle Nazi imagery honestly but without resorting caricature or something. It was just part of the setting and it worked so what else can I be upset about?

TL;DR: The Sound of Music is a truly classic musical and this production is a definitely MUST-SEE for theater fans while it's in Manila. You think you know this musical based on the movie, but in truth you know NOTHING. Thus the play totally deserves a full 5 adorable performances by the von Trapp children out of a possible 5.

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