The hills are alive with the sound of music… no, really, they're alive, kicking, and a minor character in 'The Sound of Nazis', a sendup of The Sound of Music (obviously) that unfortunately doesn't quite hit all the high notes.
James McCann, the writer/composer/pianist (well, keyboard-ist) of 'Nazis', opens the performance with a little impromptu singalong, claiming that 'he can't do every song, but he can do enough', which keeps the crowd going as we wait for the show itself to start. I'm in a good mood when the show starts, having just belted out the Australian National Anthem with half the room, but the mood quickly dissipates when the show begins. Let me explain.
A South African nun, an Australian nun, and a Jewish nun walk into a small room at the Trades Hall. How well this joke goes after that depends on what kind of joke you expect it to be: a family unfriendly parody of a well loved classic film, or a vulgar to the point of mass uncomfortableness parody that has more in common with a high school musical than the movie at its core. If you expected the latter, you're probably going to enjoy it, as many of those in the audience did. If you expected the former, well, you might have some laughs, but much of the show is cringey at best, a far cry from what I had expected.
Hayman Kent, this show's Maria, is delightfully absent-minded, and is a real gem throughout the performance, reacting to the inappropriate moments from other characters with the same faces I wore. Kel Balnaves, balancing 'Nazis' and his own Comedy Festival show, is the friendly Mr. H, and brings a little more skill to the singing element of this musical, but he doesn't have a lot to do except get beaten up by a Hill at the end of the show, which is a sad end for such a good character. The rest of the performers – Leigh Qurban, Florence Bourke, and Brandon Mannarino – are good, but not great, unfortunately forgettable in most aspects. Bourke did shine as the perplexingly South African nun who pushed Maria into the real world, but she and Mannarino just made me uncomfortable as the only von Trapp children to exist in the 'Nazis' universe. Qurban was entertaining as von Trapp, but the character was not particularly likeable or exciting, so he didn't really resonate with me.
As someone who's never seen The Sound of Music, I wasn't totally sure what to expect. What I did get was high school level songwriting, and singing of approximately the same quality. Perhaps I asked too much of the parody show, assuming that the actors wouldn't burst into laughter at their own jokes, and that there wouldn't be a full five minutes of uncomfortable hand puppet intercourse.
To summarise, the show was entertaining, don't get me wrong. The criticisms are many, but I did walk out of the room smiling. Thinking back on 'Nazis', though, leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth, considering that this group are seasoned performers, fresh off their parody of Australian film Wolf Creek. There were too many dead moments for me, jokes that were dragged on for far too long, or drawn out seconds where the actors struggled to compose themselves. A little more polish in the scriptwriting aspect could make 'Nazis' brilliant, but for now it's not quite there.