It takes courage to restage a classic musical, especially when the benchmark for lead singer was set by the iconic Julie Andrews in a very different 1965 movie.
The film about a singing governess who mothers seven children and marries their father as the Nazis take over Austria clearly remains staple viewing for families today. Even the admirable sets and superb staging of Sunday's show did not entirely distract several members of the audience from the differences between stage and screen.
Viewers were confused, out of focus and bemused during scenes not in the film and especially when toe-tapping favourite songs were sung out of the expected order. The Lonely Goatherd appeared earlier than in the film, as did My Favourite Things, sung on stage by Maria (Bethany Dickson) and the scene-stealing Mother Abbess (Janelle Visagie). In the film, it was sung by Maria and the motherless von Trapp children.
It was hard not to have the movie in mind when lead actress Dickson sported the same short blonde cap Andrews did and appeared for the first time in almost the same dress as Andrews in her first appearance in the film. Perhaps not the best idea, since Andrews' four-octave range is in a class of its own and certainly was not reproduced on Sunday.
Happily, several metaphorical high notes were hit in the second half as the plot outshone the music and the von Trapp family escaped from stormtroopers staged strategically among the audience.
Among the pleasing deviations from the film is the portrayal of Austria in 1938 and the nuanced views of its citizens. Captain von Trapp's fiancee, Baroness Schraeder (a very competent Taryn Sudding), breaks up with him over their opposing political convictions - he is willing to risk his children's lives by defying the Germans and she will not marry a man who could do so. James Borthwick as family friend Max Detweiler is also not the Hollywood cliche of a German sympathiser but a man trying to stay afloat in a changing world. His and Schraeder's common sense and wordly wise advice are summed up in two nicely performed tongue-in-cheek songs: How Can Love Survive and No Way To Stop It.
The Sixteen Going On Seventeen song celebrating female innocence seemed written for this stage version of Maria rather than Carmen Pretorius as the oldest von Trapp child, Liesl. Maria's romance with the widowed Captain von Trapp (Andre Schwartz) seemed rather questionable, as a result, especially with the stage production giving the relationship much less time to develop.
While uncomfortable lovers on the stage, Dickson and Schwartz were sweetly doting parents to the show-stealing moppets who played the von Trapp children. Eighteen children from Singapore have been cast in the parts of the six younger children and take turns to appear on stage.