Volksoper, Vienna (Austria) • 16 December 2006 • 7pm
Performed in German, with supertitles in English.
The Volksoper’s production of The Sound of Music (which has played in repertory for a while) might not be as lavish as the current London revival, but it is a decent, honest production well worth seeing. It remains relatively faithful to the original, although “Something Good” has been added.
One might think The Sound of Music, with its affirmation of Austrian pride, could have become a staple of the Viennese musical theatre repertory, and that “Edelweiss” could have become a sort of secondary national anthem. No. My friends assure me it is viewed as “just another American musical.”
Well, neither Les Misérables nor Irma la Douce have become French national treasures… (and they were written by French people…)
London Palladium • 25 November 2006 • 2:30pm
Music: Richard Rodgers. Lyrics: Oscar Hammerstein II. Book: Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse.
Director: Jeremy Sams. Musical Director: Michael Lloyd. With Connie Fisher (Maria), Alexander Hanson (Captain Von Trapp), Lesley Garrett or Margaret Preece (The Mother Abbess), Sophie Bould (Liesl), Ian Gelder (Max), Neil McDermott (Rolf), Lauren Ward (Baroness Schraeder)…
Apparently it has become a rule that every new stage production of The Sound of Music has to be a bastardized version shifting the songs around and incorporating the two songs that Richard Rodgers wrote for the movie, “I Have Confidence” and “Something Good.” The songlist of this new London production is much closer to that of the 1998 Broadway revival than to that of the original production, even if there are some differences still: Maria and The Mother Abbess sing “My Favorite Things” in Scene 2, and “The Lonely Goatherd” is in the first act.
One of the strongest moments of the show is the very beginning, when the nuns give a mind-blowing rendition of the a cappella “Preludium.” Then the show has ups and downs. Maybe it’s a bit too sugary for the 21st century. Maybe there’s a general lack of charisma in the cast, starting with Connie Fisher, winner of the “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?” TV competition, who doesn’t have much presence. I have no idea which actress I saw in the part of the Mother Abbess since I couldn’t find the information anywhere.
And yet, the show looks glorious, with some of the best sets (by Robert Jones, of Lautrec fame) I’ve seen in a while. And it does pick up steam pretty nicely in the second act. During the music festival, the auditorium is covered in nazi regalia, a rather effective and blood-curling moment (slightly reminiscent of Jérôme Savary’s staging of Cabaret, when svastikas appeared during “Tomorrow Belongs to Me”).
The ending is quite successful, with a nifty piece of staging allowing the Von Trapps to escape in the mountains while at the same time facing the audience for the final image.