Hong Kong child actors steal the show in The Sound of Music
Oohs and aahs of appreciation accompanied the six children appearing in the revival of the classic musical
The biggest challenge of any production of The Sound of Music is to make it their own; given its immense popularity on stage and screen, most of us are as familiar with this Rodgers and Hammerstein classic as we are with the tune Do-Re-Me.
This version – a revival of the 1959 musical and the first to be staged in Hong Kong in a decade – has mostly succeeded in doing that thanks to the six children in the cast, who were auditioned locally by the Hong Kong Youth Arts Foundation for their parts.
The Sound of Music is loosely based on the real-life story of a novice nun sent to the family of a widowed Austrian naval captain as governess to his seven children. Friedrich, Louisa, Kurt, Brigitta, Marta and especially Gretl (played by Teddy Sealey, Sophie Connell, Ethan Luk, Emily Hellen, Emilia Oliver and Ellabelle Purcell respectively in this performance) had the audience oohing and aahing throughout; not only can they sing, all have an adorable onstage presence.
Ami Rose Barber’s Liesl is innocent and naïve (and Barber has a good, solid voice), while less convincing is Rhys Hewitt Williams’ Rolf, who looks as if he's 17 going on 28.
The mostly speaking roles of Max (Hugh Osborne), Baroness Schraeder (Taryn Sudding), Frau Schmidt (Rika Sennett) and Franz (Macolm Terrey) effectively convey the darker mood of the drama, which charts the beginning of the Anschluss in Austria.
Despite having just one solo, Janelle Visagie’s cheerful Mother Abbess is the star of the show and, together with the nun chorus, brings the performance to a climactic end with her powerful rendition of Climb Every Mountain. Her strong voice allows her to hit all the high notes.
Sadly, not the same could be said of leading lady Carmen Pretorius as Maria, whose opening solo, The Sound of Music, lacks impact. And when she rejoins the Von Trapp family in Act Two, she is barely audible above the children’s voices in My Favourite Things. Mark Rayment, as Captain Georg von Trapp, on the other hand, is a better singer than he is an actor.
Robert Jones’ set is lavish and visually stunning; the orchestra, under the baton of Stefan Lombard, sounds like it needs more rehearsal time.
Venue: Lyric Theatre, HK Academy for Performing Arts. Reviewed: May 17
Until June 21