Who has not fallen in love with The Sound of Music when they were kids? Practically all of us have grown up listening to the songs from this musical and have watched the movie (or even the animated version shown over ABS CBN many years ago). Well, Ipe and I are huge fans; in fact, the hubby has even kept tabs on the stars well into adulthood. Needless to say, when we heard about the production being shown at the Newport Performing Arts Theater, we knew we had to watch.
Hubby was lucky enough to get three front row seats, right smack in the middle where you can see even the tiniest beads of sweat or the quiver of a lip of the performer.
For those unfamiliar with the Story of Music (I must ask you though, under what rock are you living under?), it’s actually the tale of how Maria Rainer, a postulant at the Nonnberg Abbey, was sent by the Mother Abbess to be a governess to the seven children of widowed baron, Captain Georg Von Trapp, during the annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany.
A decorated naval officer, the Captain’s household is run with military precision, with all members of the household, his children include, responding to a whistle and their daily exercise consisting of coordinated marches. After the death of his wife, the Captain spent less and less time at their estate in Austria, and forbid music in their home. As a result, the children grew up not knowing him, and would always get rid of their governess since they knew that without one, their father would be forced to come home to hire a new one.
Maria, being the rule breaker that she is and with the best of intentions, brings out the children’s inborn love for music and teaches them how to sing in the Captain’s absence, and in the process forges a genuine caring relationship with the children.
By the time Captain Von Trapp returns home with his soon-to-be-fiancee, the Baroness Elsa Shraeder, the children have all undergone a great change in their demeanor, even learning to wear play clothes as opposed to the uniforms the Captain makes them wear. Needless to say, Maria and the Captain soon discover they are falling for the other, or rather, the people around them discover it.
Maria runs back to the convent, afraid that falling in love with the Captain is against her chosen vocation until the Mother Abbess convinces her that “just because you love the Captain, doesn’t mean you love God any less.” The two eventually get married and with the threat of the Captain being forced to lead a naval fleet as part of the German contingent (forcing him to choose whether to side with Germany for his family’s safety or keep true to his patriotic nature and refuse), must figure out how to survive while keeping their family intact.
There are subtle differences between the musical and the movie versions such as how the Captain and the Baroness broke up because of political differences (in the movie, the Baroness broke up with him because she realized he was in love with Maria), and how the Postman let them escape (again, in the movie, he wasn’t as nice; he actually alerted the Nazi of the Von Trapp’s plan and whereabouts); am not sure why, but either version works well with me.
Of course, there are also differences between the theatrical version and the real-life story of the von Trapp family but on the whole, remains true to the main story.
Honestly, I have not watched many stage productions, and so my cannot compare it with much. Given this, I must say the production exceeded my expectations – from the set, to the costume, to the orchestra, to the actors.
Every scene is rendered vividly with the aid of a LED screen occupying the entire wall of the stage, reportedly one of the biggest in a theatre in Asia, further enhanced by backdrops that are so far one of the most elaborately prepared sets I have seen in the country. In fact, the props alone made me think that I was getting way more out of the deal than what I have paid for – it was quite obvious that no expense was spared for the production to be as faithful to the story’s setting as possible.
The transition from each act/scene was also seamless – each change of backdrop perfectly timed and coordinated and I didn’t feel or hear any scrambling going on onstage, even though I was seated just a few feet from the edge.
And for the ticket price (VIP tickets cost Php 2,000), I wasn’t really expecting a live orchestra to play but there they were! Being an accountant, I got quite preoccupied estimating the musical’s expenses, which I am expecting, is stratospheric compared to its revenues, even though they were performing for a full house (and I heard tickets are almost all sold out). Geeky ole me.
Of course, the gems of any stage production are the actors. Really, you can get over an ugly set but will never get satisfied by a mediocre performance. I was looking forward to seeing Joanna Ampil who I have yet to see onstage but Cris Villonco was playing Maria last Saturday. I remember her from her days as an aspiring recording singer and while her voice was clear and had depth, she never really reached full stardom, perhaps because of her too wholesome image, and the fact that her the songs she recorded were not really that memorable. So, I was initially less than thrilled that I would be watching her.
But to my pleasant surprise, she gave a powerful performance and really impressed me that night. I love, love, love her voice, how she effortlessly switched between notes and jumped octaves and conveyed her emotions through her voice. She brought me to tears several times (also, I was seated right in front of her that I could see her tears glistening onstage), especially when she realized she had fallen in love with the captain and that he was going to marry the Baroness, and in that scene when the Nazi’s were after them and she was telling the captain that his decision (whether to side with the Germans or escape) will also be her decision. I know some feminists will not like this part, arguing that she should have her own opinions, and while I agree with this view, there are some things wherein you will really have to respect your man’s decision.
The Captain was portrayed perfectly by Audie Gemora, no doubt my favourite Filipino stage actor. I was a fan of his even when I was younger and I must say the quality of his voice has not changed. He makes singing look so easy and I could feel the tension he was feeling as the Von Trapp family was performing at the Festival, with the Nazi waiting to take him away right after their performance. Really, I cannot say anything more other than he was damn good.
I must say though, I didn’t initially feel the attraction between the Captain and Maria, until well into the second act. And I found it quite amusing that Cris probably used to play his daughter in one musical or another but now plays his wife, though of course, we know that the love story of the captain and the novice was really a May-December affair.
And I must not forget to mention Pinky Amador’s performance as the Baroness and Sheila Francisco as the Mother Abbess, which were stellar. Marvin Ong as Rolf Gruber was also brilliant – I think he was my second favourite singer in the production, next of course to Audie.
Perhaps one of the best surprises of the night was seeing Debraliz as Frau Schmidt. It was a non-singing part but Debraliz was so hilarious and you could tell the audience was looking forward to her scenes as some of them give tiny whoops of delight whenever she was onstage. Indeed, she got one of the loudest claps at the curtain call.
There are some weak links in the line-up though, mostly on the actors playing the seven Von Trapp kids. Tanya Manalang as eldest daughter Liesl was okay but she should practice her breathing technique as I could hear every catch in her breath when she sings and there were instances when I was almost fearful that her voice would break. Paolo Ocampo, as eldest son Friedrich, was probably the wost singer in the bunch, and possibly the worst actor as well, given that, well, he couldn’t do either. But since the character doesn’t really have a solo number and just limited one-liners, this was not a big problem.
Oh, and a little bit of trivia: Aga Muhlach and Charlene Gonzales’ baby girl Atasha plays Brigitta, the third youngest kid. I must say this kid has a bright future – she’s pretty and from the looks of it, inherited Aga’s acting chops as well.
The Final Say
I couldn’t sum up how good the production was but to repeat what I said above, I felt like Newport charged too less, considering the caliber and quality of the musical. And what better affirmation can I give you that it was good, other than that and to mention that all throughout the three-hour long musical, Joey sat still on his seat, occassionally even swinging his legs to the beat?
|Souvenir program “Sazburg Gazette” showing current events in 1938; inside are primers about the production|