The Sound of Music

Music by Richard Rodgers and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
Book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse
Directed by Susan Ferley
Choreographed by Amy Wright
Musical direction by Andrew Petrasiunas
Performed by Students of the High School Project
Grand Theatre, London
September 27 to October 9, 2005
Reviewed by Mary Alderson
(Disclaimer: The writer’s son is a member of the ensemble)

The Grand is alive with The Sound of Music

Taking on The Sound of Music is a difficult task—it’s Rodgers and Hammerstein’s most familiar musical. Everyone knows story: a carefree, young nun is sent to be governess to the seven children of a very strict navy captain in Austria. She teaches the children how to sing, and in the course of events, the captain and the governess fall in love and marry. Nazi Germany takes over their beloved Austria, and the Captain is told he must join the German navy. To avoid this betrayal of their home country, the family escapes over the mountains to Switzerland.

Everyone knows the memorable score, as well: The Sound of Music, How do you solve a problem like Maria?, Do Re Mi, The Lonely Goatherd, So Long – Farewell, My Favourite Things, and the beautiful Climb Every Mountain are just some of the songs made famous by the movie starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer.

You would think that the familiarity of the show would deter the Grand Theatre from attempting it as a High School Project. But they were undaunted and they have pulled it off.

Director Susan Ferley, Musical Director Andrew Petrasiunas and Choreographer Amy Wright have taken 44 high school students and made them worthy of the Grand’s professional stage. Some have been stretched to show maturity well beyond their teenage years, while others have had the clock turned back and become plausible little children again. This is the Grand’s 9th high school project. They audition hundreds of students and select 40 to 50 to put on a large scale musical. This time, the show has been moved from spring to fall to better accommodate those students who are involved in musicals at their own schools. Also, in this production, an additional 29 students have worked behind the scenes, in properties, scenic art, wardrobe, etc.

Amanda Huxtable as Maria is delightful. With her beautiful singing voice and amusing antics, she has great stage presence. Earlier this year, Amanda was in the top 100 at Canadian Idol. Justin Goodhand as Captain Von Trapp is especially good in his moving rendition of Edelweiss. His dignity in the role of the Captain is a far cry from the brooding, evil Judd he played in Oklahoma!

The seven VonTrapp children are wonderful. Caleigh Atkinson is endearing as little Gretl, and this marks the first time in the High School Projects that a role has been filled by an elementary school student. Liesl (Rebecca Peters), Friedrich (Thomas Hill), Brigitta (Jesslyn Hodgson), Louisa (Rivkah Weisdorf), Kurt (Matt Grootjen), and Marta (Samantha Underwood) each bring vitality to the roles, harmonizing their voices beautifully.

Andrew Tribe is excellent as Max Detweiler, providing comedy. Shelly Oakes portrays the snobby Elsa Schraeder, and Andrew Wrath is Rolf, the young Nazi recruit. The remainder of the cast – nuns, townspeople, dancers, and servants at the Von Trapp household are incredible, bringing a fresh take on this very familiar show.

It’s the new energy brought to this production by the young cast that makes this version of The Sound of Music seem so fresh. Susan Ferley’s direction optimizes the students’ abilities. Even though we’re all familiar with the movie and the many versions that have gone before, it’s well worth it to revisit this popular musical, and see it with this lively, youthful cast.

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