It is easily one of the world’s most beloved musicals. “The Sound of Music” (TSOM) is a heartwarming story that never seems to get old: Maria, a nun and governess, brings “drops of golden sun” into the lives of a widowed captain and his seven children before they bid “so long, farewell” to their beloved Austria.
And until Jan 15, TSOM is being staged at Istana Budaya, Kuala Lumpur, giving Malaysians an opportunity to relive their favourite memories of the musical – and perhaps even make new ones!
Directed by three-time Tony award-winner and Broadway veteran, Jack O’Brien and choreographed by Danny Mefford, the production has one unique factor: 17 local children who take turns to play the six younger von Trapp siblings.
Admittedly, Malaysian children playing Austrian kids alongside Broadway actors may lead one to wonder: did the kids pull it off?
Oh yes, they did! They shone from the get-go with their acting and singing skills, taking on “Do-Re-Mi” and “The Hills Are Alive” like real troupers, performing beautifully in harmony and never missing a beat.
A standout performance was their rendition of “So Long, Farewell”, during which Friedrich (Izz Quedy Akhirudin) impressed everyone when he expertly hit a high note and sustained it for several seconds.
It was wonderful to see the children hold their own alongside more experienced Broadway actors – an impressive feat for even an experienced adult!
And what about Maria, the role first played by the iconic Julie Andrews for the film version in 1965? Despite having big shoes to fill, Jill-Christine Wiley delivers a commendable performance.
With a clear, crisp, and beautiful voice, it doesn’t take long before she sings her way into the hearts of the audience. She makes it easy for the audience to emphatise with Maria, who finds herself out of place at Nonnberg Abbey before eventually finding a home in the hearts of the von Trapp family.
Another notable performance was that of Lauren Kidwell as Mother Abbess. Her rendition of “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” was simply breathtaking. The inspiring lyrics, coupled with her strong and powerful vocals, brought on the goosebumps.
Admittedly, Kidwell is younger than Peggy Wood who played the character in the movie. However, she does a good job in tackling the role of the kind, maternal woman who encourages Maria to find her calling outside the Abbey.
Acting and singing aside, the set design changes were seamlessly handled without disrupting the storytelling while the backdrops were decidedly breathtaking, transporting the audience from living room to bedroom and outdoor scenes.
Hats off as well to the team in charge of the costumes. According to costume coordinator Matthew Hampton, there were over 120 costumes in the show requiring a sophisticated level of coordination to ensure everything ran without a hitch.
Die-hard fans of the movie may have picked up that three songs, “How Can Love Survive”, “No Way to Stop It” and “An Ordinary Couple”, were not in the movie but were included in the performance as they were part of the original Broadway production.
What makes TSOM special is its timeless appeal. If you’re a young parent, this is a great opportunity to introduce the musical to your children.
However, the production does run for 155 minutes including a 20-minute intermission, so the matinee shows on the weekend may be preferable.
It would also be good to enlighten your children about the Nazis and the annexation of Austria into the German Reich so they may fully understand why the von Trapps had to leave their homeland.
Overall, watching TSOM is a great family activity – and you may just find yourself humming tunes from the musical for days after watching it!
‘The Sound of Music’ runs at Istana Budaya, Kuala Lumpur until Jan 15.
- Tuesday–Friday: 8.30pm
- Saturday: 3pm and 8.30pm
- Sunday: 1pm and 5pm
Click here for ticket prices and availability.