Crown Theatre was a full house on the second night of the London Palladium’s near four-week residency. Performing every Mum’s favourite musical, their motivation to attend The Sound of Music was probably the pursuit of nostalgia, harmonies, and stage re-creations of scenic hillsides. Or maybe it was just to laugh pitifully at the young girl performing as Gretl (Luca Priolo), the youngest of the von Trapp kids, who was a lovely, uncoordinated mess for the production’s entirety and arguably the star of the show.
From the outset, the harmonies delivered by the sisters at the abbey, with intermittent operatic elements, swirl through your mind, delivering goosebumps. What else can be said of the night’s musicality, other than that it served up a classic medley of timeless, brilliantly executed tunes that even inspired soft singalongs on several occasions. The vocal performances and range were excellent from all performers, even amongst the young cast members whom were sourced and auditioned from Perth.
There were times where cast members would signal to the conductor, whose head was barely visible below the stage, to cue the beginning of a song, which added a nice touch to the collective family being established to include those in attendance, as if honorary members of the von Trapp family.
Those expecting perfect synchrony with the classic 1965 film of the same name would be somewhat disappointed at the way the songs are ordered, but this is justified as some of film’s defining moments are excluded from the theatrical adaptation because of the need to build up the drama in a rearranged way. The glorious title track is introduced in rather subtle fashion, building on the idea of music being the spiritual essence of the production; a recurring motif of ‘finding the music’ if you will. Instead of Maria screaming it from the hills, it is performed inside the abbey where song is suppressed until the Mother Abbess (Johanna Allen) is filled with the delight of rediscovering her favourite song. She begins to sing it before encouraging our protagonist, Maria Rainer (Amy Lehpamer), to also release her joy in song.
As I reflected with an elderly lady following the performance on the emotions that the night had drawn out of us, I attributed my tears not only the aforementioned unsettling harmonies, but also to the well-timed and noticeable changes to lighting. There were moments scattered throughout the production, usually accompanying the introduction of songs, where the lighting would become warmer, revealing more vibrant reds and yellows that facilitated the almost orgasmic feeling you get from walking outside on a sunny day in early Spring.
A notable instance of this was upon the return of Captain Georg von Trapp (Cameron Daddo) from Vienna with Baroness Schraeder (Marina Prior) and Max Detweiler (David James). Instead of stopping his children singing, as he had previously forbid, he leads them in chorus, revealing another beautiful moment consistent with the theme of finding the music- *eyes well up*- and the catharsis of our highly sought reconnection between him and his children.
Waiting for a taxi in the rain, I heard the audience utter rave reviews as rain pitter-pattered on umbrellas like “raindrops on roses” – as farfetched as that may sound.
Words by Basim Boulos
The Sound of Music runs until 9 October at Crown Theatre. Tickets available here.