Saturday, December 7, 2013

Review: (Ottawa) The Sound of Music

                                   (photo by Andrée Lanthier)
The Hills are Alive and Well  
by Jim Murchison

The Sound of Music is a story and a film that most people know although not as many are familiar with the play. This is what I was thinking would be interesting to see as I made my way to the theatre and when I opened my programme, I saw director Joey Tremblay making exactly the same point. This was a play first and there are strengths and emotional moments that hit more deeply in live performance.

Having said this, the songs are part of our culture, at least for people within 20 years of my age range. People under 30 might not know them as well. A great many people have already decided to see the play, and many others will just want to know if it's good. Well yes it is very good.

The minimalist set by Roger Schultz is basically one large staircase that covers the entire width of the stage with a thrust at the front and a catwalk that semicircles into the audience. Set pieces are flown in or rolled in by the cast to establish the various areas. The rest of the physical mood is provided by Leigh Ann Vardy's lighting, Peter McBoyle's sound and the live musicians set unobtrusively upstage under Allen Boyle's direction.

Let's be honest the most critical casting element is having a Maria and Eliza-Jane Scott is that. She has a sweetness and a strength that is the foundation of the character and an exuberant energy that spreads infectiously through the audience when singing with the children. 

Dmitry  Chepovetsky is the stoic Captain von Trapp who loses his veneer under Maria's spell. Sheldon Elter is the ever so fey friend and promoter Max and he plays with a likeable panache. Christine Brubaker plays a number of roles but clearly the Baroness Elberfeld is the most memorable as she is the most obvious villain that isn't clearly a Nazi. 

There are many good voices in the cast, but what is really most effective is when they raise in chorus. Also the NAC brings up the lights from time to time and encourages you to sing along. I discovered that I know more of the lyrics than I thought, but my yodelling needs work so I bowed out early from singing. 

What is really nice about the main stage is that it is big enough to house a production of this size without losing too much of the intimacy required to see the hearts of the characters. This is a really well done production of a play that is less well known than we realize performed by a world class ensemble.

The Sound of Music runs Dec. 3  - Jan. 4

Run Time: approximately 150 minutes with one intermission

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