Babirra’s rejuvenation of The Sound of Music gives audiences a reason to sing from a mountaintop.
There’s no denying that one of a musical theatre lover’s favourite things is a well-loved classic. Stepping into the Whitehorse Centre, audiences are transported into Nonnberg Abbey thanks to Tyler Hess and Kym Ramsdale’s beautiful set design. An intricate lattice lets light fall onto the stage while a centre backdrop transforms from a stain glass window into a picturesque mountain view. These were effectively utilised throughout the show, allowing the story to seamlessly flow between locations.
Crisp costumes by Leonie Campbell tracked the von Trapp children as they adapted from disciplined to spirited. Their ‘repurposed’ outfits – made out of Maria’s old curtains – were a particular highlight as the family flounced about the stage in their new playful attire.
The orchestra (led by Ben Moody) and sound crew (led by Marcello Lo Ricco) are to be commended for their strength in tackling a challenging score. Audiences were enthralled by the familiar melodies drifting throughout the theatre. The team was quick to remedy a slight imbalance in microphone and music levels early on in the performance, and adapted their volume to accommodate for the younger members of the von Trapp family. The sound was well complimented by Daniel Gosling’s lighting, which contrasted Maria’s joyous singing lessons with the sombre feel of the abbey. There were, however, times where lighting changeovers felt abrupt and rushed – but I expect this will be finessed throughout the run.
Choreographer Kristy Griffin successfully managed to capture each of the core cast’s characters throughout the show. There was a fantastically varied display of a plethora of personalities expressed wonderfully through movement and for that she should be praised. However, some sections of the performance that featured the ensemble came across as cramped and slightly overdone, with particular reference to the party sequence at the Captain’s home – at one point there were so many couples trying to enter the stage at once that the doors started to block.
Despite a few opening night blunders, it’s glaringly obvious that the cast of The Sound of Music has given this production new life. Greta Wilkinson walks Maria along a tightrope of purity and strength. Audiences are delighted to watch her transform from the aspiring nun to a mother figure that exudes love. Greta’s voice is sweet, but powerful – a testament to the direction she has decided to take her character. It’s not hard to see the smile on the audience’s face as she launches into classics like ‘Do-Re-Mi’ and ‘My Favourite Things’. Adam Bianco gives an impeccable performance of Captain von Trapp, blessing audiences with a heart-warming rendition of Edelweiss. His Captain is commanding, but the flashes of vulnerability were placed effortlessly so as to keep audiences waiting for his grand transformation.
The leading duo were fabulously supported by an exceedingly talented cast, who were confident to bring their own flair to such beloved characters. Of note was Samantha Du Rennes, whose portrayal of Mother Abbess sent shivers down my spine. To put it simply, she was absolutely divine. Lauren Holcombe and Phil Lambert give Elsa Schraeder and Max Detwiller such dynamic energy, giving the audience time to appreciate the show’s broader storyline without making it feel as if they were watching two separate performances.
Of course, The Sound of Music would be but an empty shell without the von Trapp children. Although each child has such a distinct personality, the young cast grabbed on to their characters with vigour and didn’t let go. At eight years old, Miranda Ferrigno gives a gorgeously lovable performance of Greta and manages not to be overshadowed by her older siblings throughout the entire show. Eryn Saunders is a sweet, naive Liesl while Charlotte Barnard gives Brigitta a splendid amount of ‘know-it-all’ attitude. Every single von Trapp child should be congratulated for their fabulous performances, which I know will only get smoother with each passing show.
This production of The Sound of Music is certainly not one to be missed. A beautiful blend between nostalgia and new life, Babirra has done exceedingly well in bringing a timeless classic back to the stage. I suspect there will be a few familiar melodies floating in the minds of audience members for many days to come.