Just what the doctor ordered! A wholesome story and abundance of talent

The Sound Of Music, produced by The Workshop Players at Lionel Wendt Theatre, on October 18 .Reviewed by Daleena Samarajiwa, Pix by Shehal Joseph

Three hours of immersion in a celebration of not only good old-fashioned romance and splendid song but sheer talent, makes for a heady Saturday night at the Lionel Wendt. So, when I walked away from the hall at 10.30 p.m., even the dank weather and a missing car, couldn’t dampen my mood. I kept thinking, ‘wow!’

Few urbanites are unaware of this much-loved classic musical that has endured for more than half a century. Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music debuted in 1959. The screen version better known to us premiered in 1965. Briefly, Maria, an incorrigible and lovable novice (Imani Perera), is sent away from the nunnery by a kindly Mother Abbess (Aanjanee Jayasooriya), to be governess of the von Trapp brood. Captain von Trapp (Jehan Bastiansz) is a former navy captain, now a widower who hides his loneliness under a grim military façade. He runs his household of seven children, a housekeeper and butler, like he would the navy. Enter Maria who breaks all the rules, and brings warmth, humanity and music back into the family. She and the captain fall in love, and get married. But just as they are about to settle down, the Nazis arrive in Austria. The captain, a patriot, and his family are forced to flee across the mountains from the threat of the invaders.

What stood out in this Workshop Players production was the sheer talent of the cast, and the singing. From the children to the nuns, the songs were a joy. Aaajanee Jayasooriya gave a brilliant performance as Mother Abbess. Her strong soprano voice charged the audience and the production. Her Climb Every Mountain was magnificent. In fact, the entire ensemble of singing nuns was impressive, and the number soared, like the backdrop of towering mountains on the set. Aanjanee also packed in stage presence, and carried her role exceptionally well. Imani Perera gave a charming girl-next-door rendition of Maria. Vocally, she was pure and enchanting, and she made a perfect Maria.

Jehan Bastiansz was fair as Captain von Trapp. He could have been made of slightly sterner stuff, though. Mohammed Adamally and Tanika Fernando were convincing as Max Detweiler and Elsa Schraeder respectively. The children – Lisle (Shranya de Silva), Freidrich (Benjamin Aluwihara), Louisa (Roshani Abbey), Kurt (Ashendra Hirdramani), Brigitta (Aanya Hirdramani), Marta (Lelia Aluvihara) and Gretl (Shontaal Manuelpillai), were captivating. Leisel and Rolf’s (Gyles Dharmaratne) little tryst in the summer house was charming.

What’s to critique? I had happily settled into the abbey in Austria when I was hauled back to Sri Lanka and onto my feet by the Sri Lanka national anthem. For a moment, I wondered whether I would be watching a Sri Lankan adaptation. Then I had to return to the chapel in Austria immediately. The anthem would have been more appropriate before the opening scene. Also, the slapstick bowing of the award winners at the end was out of character with the rest of the story. It created the impression that the production was being hastily wrapped up. The crypt scene wasn’t too clear either. All in all, the ending was weak when compared to the rest of the production.

But there was a lot more to celebrate. The set and scene changes were almost seamless, despite the repeated appearance of crew. The sets were excellent, and the costumes (Lou Ching Wong) were superb.

As for the story in the context of today – it’s just what the doctor would order: a good wholesome story (fact and not fantasy based, mind you) celebrating the finer values of life – love, family, innocence, patriotism, freedom, music and Maria’s contagious sunny-side-up take on life.

It was music to my ears. Three cheers to production designer and director Jerome de Silva and the rest of the Workshop Players.

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