By Lori Bosworth
Unless you’ve been under a rock for the past half a century, you could probably name at least one song from The Sound of Music, which opened April 10, 2014 at Toronto’s Randolph Theatre. The delightful Lower Ossington Theatre production, directed by Hart House Theatre alumnus Jeremy Hutton, hits all the right chords with respect to strong musical leads, clever staging and glorious costumes.
With music by Richard Rodgers and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, the renowned score dominates the play; it’s quite a unique theatre experience when you can sing along (hopefully, in your head), word-for-word, a play’s entire songbook. But one may forget that this well-loved musical is based on the memoir of Maria von Trapp, The Story of The Trapp Family Singers. Maria had intended to become a nun before becoming the tutor of only one of the von Trapp children and, according to her memoir, married Captain von Trapp not out of love for him, but out of love for the children.
We are so accustomed to seeing the film version of The Sound of Music that changes to the score might seem out of step. But the original Broadway production contained three songs not included in the film including: “How Can Love Survive,” “No Way To Stop It,” and “An Ordinary Couple,” all of which were included in the Lower Ossington Theatre’s production. Greg Carruthers, Elyse Evangelista and Barrett Morrison as Max, Elsa and Captain von Trapp, performed a rousing version of “No Way To Stop It.”
Anyone who dares to fill the shoes of Julie Andrews in her iconic role should be applauded. Carrie Underwood attempted it in a recent, much-publicized television version with mixed success. Michelle Nash as Maria has a wonderful voice and range, offering an animated, spontaneous Maria who clearly does not belong in the nunnery. Chosen for her powerful voice, Michelle perhaps lacks maturity for this role, but she makes up for it in enthusiasm. She offers a slightly more subdued performance in Act II to reflect Maria’s softened edges after marriage to the Captain. Barrett Morrison as Captain von Trapp captures the baron’s gravity and showcases a strong baritone voice. Morrison and Nash’s chemistry, however, could use a few sparks.
As the Mother Abbess, Adeen Ashton Fogle delivered the show-stopping, shiver-inducing ballad, “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” with a powerful vibrato. Brady Vanveaerenbergh gave the role of Rolf, Liesl’s beau, appealing confidence and energy and a powerful singing voice. Knowing that Vanveaerenbergh would not be singing again since Rolf has only the one number, “Sixteen Going On Seventeen,” was a disappointment.
Seven-year-old Hanna Levinson managed to steal many scenes due to her diminutive size, charming personality and lovely voice. In fact, all of the scenes in which the child actors appear have added sparkle. Kudos to Emma Helm for her portrayal of oldest son, Friedrich, in which she displayed her phenomenal vocal talent.
Kathleen Black’s costumes, including the children’s curtains-turned-play-clothes, music festival outfits, gorgeous ballroom attire and wedding gowns, are another element that elevates this production to a higher status. Michelle Shuster’s choreography delighted during Liesl and Rolf’s romantic scene and Maria and the Captain’s Ländler folk dance.
Michael Galloro’s set, which featured two symmetrical staircases, effectively transitioned from scene to scene, with particular dramatic effect when the von Trapp ballroom transformed into the Kaltzberg Festival concert hall. Realistic-looking lightning must have scared a few of the children during the matinee performance.
Tracy Lam’s imposing red and black banners of the Nazi Party were a strong reminder of the German occupation of Austria, a theme which finds relevance today in light of the current circumstances in Crimea.
You’ll definitely be singing one of your favourite tunes upon leaving the Lower Ossington Theatre’s glorious production of The Sound of Music. What a fabulous way to welcome Easter, Passover, spring or Mother’s Day.
The Sound of Music is playing at the Randolph Theatre in Toronto until May 3, 2014. Tickets are $39.99 to $69.99 and can be purchased online at Lower Ossington Theatre.