Understandably, taking on the roles of a large singing family that was immortalized in one of the world's best loved family musicals, is quite a daunting task. However, challenging as it must be, the enjoyment in the air as the Workshop Players practise, is obvious.
"Our biggest challenge lay in the fact that the response we had to the production right at the beginning was absolutely overwhelming!" recalls Jerome Silva, Director of the producton. Without any advertising of what was to take place, a large number of people had lined up to take part. This had proved quite a challenge because the all inclusion policy where anyone who has an interest in or passion for drama gets a chance to perform, resulted in five Marias, two Captains and six sets of children!
Despite all these challenges, the large cast of 60 members have bonded together well, and there was a great sense of relaxation as they practised and watched each other practise. For them, meeting up during the weekends and thinking of nothing but drama for a few hours at a stretch is a fabulous form of release, but make no mistake, it is not all about relaxation; they all agree they need to constantly give their very best, for Jerome sets the highest possible standards, where every little detail in every performance has to be perfect.
Hard at work acting, singing and dancing since July, these enthusiastic performers eagerly await their moment in the spotlight, presenting their version of the Broadway musical – The Sound of Music which will go on the boards from October 17 to 26, at 7.30pm, at the Lionel Wendt.
Why perform The Sound of Music? "Well," says Jerome, "We have done every musical we could possibly do over the past few years, and this is one of those old musicals that is being revived in London, so we felt that Sri Lanka too, deserved to get a taste of the Broadway version of the story instead of just the movie."
The biggest challenge for the five girls (Shanuki De Alwis, Irandi Kuruppu, Imani Perera, Amandhi Caldera and Dmitri Gunatilleke) playing Maria is to have the audience forget, as much as possible, the role played by Julie Andrews. ("It is also a challenge to dance gracefully!" laughed one of them.) "She immortalized the role," explains Shanuki, "so our challenge is to focus on Maria's character – to portray the essence of her infectious and energetic spirit, and hopefully not be influenced by Julie Andrews' performance in the process.
In addition to this, the five Maria's are also faced with the challenge of acting with five different sets of children, thereby having to change the way they interact with the groups according to their varied acting styles. "The nice thing though is that each of us present a different interpretation of Maria's character, so we continuously learn from each other and are able to add a great deal of spontaneity to the role," commented Imani.
The two Captain Von Trapps (played by Jehan Bastians and Eraj De Silva) see the production as a challenge, but appreciate the new dimensions of the Captain's character, not highlighted in the movie. "It is a very 'meaty' sort of role, in that every line has weightage," says Jehan. "In an artistic sense it is very uplifting and the directors have done wonders with the production; the "Nun's Chorus" sounds fabulous!"
One thing is for certain though – The Sound of Music being staged in a few days time is a far sight different to the movie. Apart from the scenes, there is also a better presentation of the characters. "For instance," explains Mohammed Adamaly who will play the role of Max Detweiler, "the role of 'Uncle Max' has considerably more colour in this version than in the movie.
It's a super role to play – one I have always looked forward to. Max comes across as having an essentially humorous character, but that is just a facade; he has a slightly scheming nature as well."
The same goes for the role of the Mother Abbess. "It seems that she sees a little bit of herself in Maria, and her attitude towards Maria never changes," observed Aanjanee Jayasooriya and Dinushka Jayawickreme, the actresses portraying Mother Abbess, who both agree that there is far more to the character than seen in the movie.
With the direction done by Jerome Silva and music handled by Surein De S. Wijeyeratne, The Sound of Music is definitely a treat worth enjoying. Tickets priced at Rs. 1000/-, 750/-, 500/-, and 250/- are available at the Lionel Wendt.
The electronic media sponsors for the performance will be Channel 1 MTV and Yes FM, while the print media sponsor is The Sunday Times.