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Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Theatre review: the festive season opens joyfully with The Sound of Music

The concept that love conquers hatred and fear, and still offers hope, resonates throughout

The joyful The Sound of Music is a sure sign that the festive season has arrived. Oscar Hammerstein’s lyrics, enhanced by Richard Rodgers’s music and coupled with the powerful words of Howard Lindsay’s and Russel Crouse’s script, are a positive reminder that love can still conquer hatred and fear.

There is a pivotal moment in this Arts Club production, when telegram-delivery-boy, Rolf Gruber, confronts the Von Trapp family hiding from the Nazis in the local Abbey gardens. He is prepared to expose the escaping family, gun aimed and cocked ready, when his young love, Liesl Von Trapp, stands in front of her father to shield him.  After an oh-so-pregnant pause (Spoiler Alert), “No one out here, Sir!” calls Rolf, consummately played, sung and danced by Jason Sakaki. Jolene Bernardino plays, sings and dances just as consummately, as Liesl. And Ashlie Corcoran’s skilful direction highlights the script’s maxim that love also offers hope.

Drew Facey’s sets are impressive, and the colours he uses blend pleasingly with the costumes he has created  –  apart from Maria’s intentionally “awful dress” when she arrives from the convent at Captain Von Trapp’s palatial residence. As one of the more outspoken Von Trapp children says, that dress is hideous. Kudos to Facey for risking the outrage of those who might not twig that Maria’s get-up is strictly tongue-in-cheek.  And to Synthia Yusuf who plays Maria, for wearing it. Her outfits make up for it later.

Scene changes are smooth and efficient, unobtrusively moving the action of the play forward. Lighting by Itai Erdal is also spot on, with a particularly charming moment when the light from Rolf’s bicycle lamp falls on the face of his beloved Liesl.

The cast of the Arts Club Theatre Company production of The Sound of Music. Set and costume design by Drew Facey and lighting design by Itai Erdal. Photo by Emily Cooper.
The cast of the Arts Club Theatre Company production of The Sound of Music. Set and costume design by Drew Facey and lighting design by Itai Erdal. Photo by Emily Cooper.

The music is spectacular, although the volume enhancement needed to be toned down during the first twenty minutes on opening night. It made the performers look as if they were miming.

Annie Ramos’s operatic voice as The Mother Abbess is worthy of more than one hallelujah. She is a finely-tuned actor/dancer too, and heavenly both to listen to and to watch. Jonathan Winsby, as Captain Georg Von Trapp, also enhances each song he sings with his luxuriously warm baritone voice.

The actor’s unwritten law to never perform on stage with animals and children doesn’t apply in this merry spectacle.

Yusuf’s Maria comes to life the minute she meets the Von Trapp children. She obviously feels at home with the versatile young actors portraying Captain Georg’s seven offspring. Once Do Re Mi is underway, their infectious energy marries her own, and she shines. Unfortunately, her voice was a little shrill, and her movement a tad wooden during the first few scenes on opening night, but that might have had something to do with the sound level.

Meghan Gardiner gives an intelligent interpretation of Elsa Schraeder and is rewarded with well-deserved laughs as the prospective wife of Captain Von Trapp until the plot thickens.

As a whole, the production is a tribute to ensemble work. Though not mentioned by name, the rest of the cast and crew deserves recognition.

Choreography by Shelley Stewart Hunt, assisted by Robbie Hébert, is inventive and lively. It adds flair to a show that should be on the list of every family looking for a joyful festive season.

The Sound of Music, with music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II and book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse.  Directed by Ashlie Corcoran.  An Arts Club Theatre Company production on stage at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage (2750 Granville St. Vancouver) until January 5.  Visit for tickets and information.

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