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Thursday 18 October 2018
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The Sound of Music

TO MOUNT the Broadway production of a much-loved film is a risk but, judging by the packed auditorium in the Queen’s Hall on Friday, it was a risk well worth taking. Most, if not all the adults in the audience, must have seen it at least once, and some (especially those who bought the VHS or DVD recordings) a dozen or more times.

However, having firmly established a reputation for excellence with Fiddler on the Roof in 2006 and last year with Oliver!, the Trinidad public was eager to see The Festival Arts Chorale’s 2008 presentation of The Sound of Music. The opening scene of the nuns chanting in the choir of the Abbey was impressive, setting a high standard for the rest of the production.

Subsequently it was unfortunate there seemed to be difficulties with the sound reproduction in the first act. Hannah Howard, as Maria appeared to be shouting, or speaking to music (a la Rex Harrison in My Fair Lady), the tone was harsh until she reached the top notes.

After the intermission the mike problems had been sorted out— apart from the odd occasion when the Mother Abbess’s crucifix knocked against the mike on her habit.

The orchestra, too, seemed to suffer (as so many do in Trinidad) from a haemorrhage of experienced players who leave to pursue further education, or more rewarding employment overseas. The strings wobbled about somewhat but on the whole Jessel Murray kept them in order. There was one unfortunate lapse as the children began singing, unaccompanied, offstage to be joined by the orchestra—in a different key, when they came onstage. Professionalism won out as singers and orchestra completed the piece in harmony.

There seems little point in repeating the well-known story line. Hannah Howard gave an excellent account of herself as the heroine, Maria. The children were very, very good, Friedrich (Joshua Ramjohn) surprised and delighted with his clear high soprano—it’s so rarely one hears the spine-chilling voice of a boy soprano in this country.

Luke Silva as the 17-year-old young Nazi, Rolf Gruber, leapt over benches, playing the young lover to the hilt. Maurice Rawlins made an excellent, if somewhat young, impresario Max Detweiler.

The Mother Abbess (Kendra Sylvester) was suitably dignified and sympathetic, Sister Berthe (Joanna Francis) contributed comic relief, ably supported by Sister Margaretta, (Tramaine Lamy) and Sister Sophia (Lureia Reid).

William Carter as Captain Georg Von Trapp was a disappointment. Perhaps he had a problem in living up to the immaculately dressed, commanding yet, ultimately charming and sympathetic Christopher Plummer of the movie. Carter failed to persuade one he was the hero of the piece since none of his clothes fitted (or between his last fittings for his costume he had put on weight around the tum at an alarming rate).

At times he seemed unsure of his lines, he failed to convince that he was a respected Naval officer, the love scenes between himself and Maria evoked shrieks of laughter from the audience. In fact one felt Maurice Rawlins and William Carter might have exchanged roles, were it not that Von Trapp (as sung in this production) is a bass-baritone while Rawlins might be a tenor?

Patrice Briggs made heavy weather of the socialite Elsa Schr?der—which isn’t an easy part to play being one of the least sympathetic characters in the piece. Jeremy Callaghan made a suitably sinister Herr Zeller (the Gauleiter).

The choreography for the children and for the guests at the party was smooth, professional; it was nice to see people dancing rather than jiggling about as what passes for dance these days.

Scene changes were swift and efficient being a series of backdrops hung from the flies (if that is the correct description?), one feels one must congratulate Gillian A Creese and Jennifer Mofford-Joab who designed and those who painted the scenery. Costumes, the Captain’s excepted, were period and well executed.

On the whole, this production was well done, while, in patches, lacking the smooth presentation of previous productions. However, to judge by the applause during the curtain calls, the audience thoroughly enjoyed the show—and left wondering what delights The Festival Arts Chorale have in store for us in 2009.

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