A palpable frisson of excitement ripples across the audience as the live orchestra chimes the opening strains of ‘The Sound of Music’. Yes, indeed, one of the world’s most beloved musicals, this most favourite of things is back to entertain Joburg audiences at Montecasino. Already beyond famous, the production has been further sprinkled with stardust by producer Andrew Lloyd Weber.
The Sound of Music is a much-loved (or loathed – it’s a bit like Marmite, really) tale of a wayward novice nun who becomes a governess to 7 even more wayward children, and then falls for their stern sea-captain father. His previously stony and broken heart simultaneously melted and mended, the Captain marries Maria. The family then flees wartime Austria, escaping over the mountains to Switzerland.
It sounds like an unusual plot, but fact is often stranger than fiction. If you are more familiar with the evergreen film version, you’ll notice a few plot variations and differences in the score (although it’s worth noting that the stage show predates the film).
Stage/screen differences aside, you can expect to enjoy all the fan-favourite big numbers. These include the quirky yodelling ‘The Lonely Goatheard’; the naive song of young love, ‘Sixteen going on Seventeen’; and the emotive ‘Edelweiss’. Listen carefully and you’ll almost certainly hear your fellow audience members surreptitiously humming or singing along. It’s almost impossible not to.
The production also proudly showcases a homegrown South African cast. Carmen Pretorius’ is excellent in the lead roll, effortlessly alternating between sweet and feisty, all while hitting every note like a songbird. The Mother Abbess is a crowd favourite – played by Janelle Visagie, her vocal range and technique is impeccable, and is displayed most beautifully in ‘Climb Ev’ry Mountain’. Mischievous to no end, the von Trapp children are an integral part to the story, and these young stars rise to the challenges their rolls bring, nailing many of the comic moments.
Illusions of height and depth are imaginatively created through the set design. It seamlessly moves the audience from the Swiss mountaintops to the lofty and serene abbey, and again to the vast von Trapp mansion with its sweeping staircase and giant chandelier.
The closing tableau sees an army of nuns singing front stage with the von Trapps in the background, silhouetted atop mountains at sunset. It is pure theatre magic. So although you may not be able to catch a moonbeam in your hand, you can catch the Sound of Music. Do it before it says, “so long, farewell.”
The Sound of Music is on at Montecasino’s Teatro until 29 April 2018.