‘The Sound of Music’ in troubled times in Manila

One of the many enchanting scenes of the musical Sound of Music Photo © Erickson dela Cruz

THE Sept. 27 opening of “The Sound of Music” at The Theatre Solaire was timely, happening several days after Filipinos commemorated the horrors of martial law under then President Ferdinand Marcos.

This London West End production of “The Sound of Music” overjoyed many in the audience who went to watch the Sept. 29 gala performance. At the end of the show, a roaring and well-deserved standing ovation was bestowed upon the cast who performed several of the most memorable numbers in musical theatre history.

This touring production has the music of Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, and book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse. Jeremy Sams is the director while Kevin Kraak conducts. Production design is by Robert Jones.

Who could forget “My Favorite Things,” “Edelweiss”, “Do-Re-Mi”, “Sixteen Going on Seventeen,” “The Lonely Goatherd,” “Climb Ev’ry Mountain,” and “The Sound of Music” itself? With its 30-strong international cast now in Manila, the show had toured Singapore, New Zealand, and China earlier.

Almost 58 years after it premiered on Broadway on Nov. 16, 1959 at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, “The Sound of Music” is still “the world’s most popular musical,” despite initial criticism of it being too syrupy. The Filipino audience during the Sept. 29 gala resoundingly re-affirmed their homage to “The Sound of Music.”

During the gala night, Carmen Pretorius (as Maria Rainer), Nick Maude (Captain Von Trapp), Janelle Visagie (Mother Abbess), Haylea Heyns (Baroness Schraeder), Jonathan Taylor (Max Deitweiler), Michael McMeeking (Rolf), and the Von Trapp children played Zoe Beavon (Liesl), Oren Soleta (Friedrich), Gwyn Dorado (Louisa), Dean Angelia (Kurt), Krystal Brimner (Brigita), Sam Lagma (Marta), and Faline Dorado (Gretl) plus the international company collectively showed their vocal prowess and clarity in their group, duet, and solo numbers.

Special commendation must be made on the Filipino cast members who blended well with the international professional cast.

On top of its beauty and near-perfect polish in almost all aspects of production, this touring “The Sound of Music” produced by Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Company and David Ian Productions, and presented by the Lunchbox Theatrical Productions, Concertus Manila, and David Atkins Enterprises, becomes more meaningful and significant to its Filipino audience in these times of turmoil, torture, troubles, and “tokhang”.

While Act I has more of the sugar-filled bouncy and wholesome numbers, remarkable is the dark tone and heavy mood of the Act II of this production. The set design by Jones in several of the scenes, notably those featuring Nazi followers, is almost funereal.

It must be emphasized that this touring production of “The Sound of Music” starkly showed, if not reminded, Filipinos of the dangers of creeping authoritarianism, and its perils if left unchecked. European countries have dark chapters of fascism in their histories, the Philippines has the disheartening martial law years under the Marcos regime.

Filipinos are slowly learning again the painful lesson that politicians who present themselves as anti-establishment and promise to start genuine change to improve the Philippine socio-economic conditions may morph into dangers to democracy and justice post-elections.

In “The Sound of Music”, the Von Trapp family has the resources and connections to escape the wrath of the Nazis, and eventually leave Austria. Many Filipinos are not so fortunate. Thousands have already been killed in the war against drugs and in the name of protecting democracy.

Authoritarianism (or fascism in the case of certain countries) is always complicated and contentious. Filipinos must become must be critical and aware of authoritarian tendencies masquerading as populist aspirations.

“Never again” is heard again these days in the Philippines. The return of martial law must be vigorously opposed. The horrors of Nazism and Holocaust must not be resurrected.

If “The Sound of Music” is able to remind Filipinos daily of these dreadful lessons, then by all means let them show the production annually. “The Sound of Music” may be good for democracy and justice.

(The Sound of Music runs until at The Theatre Solaire until Oct. 15. Please contact 891-999 |www.ticketworld.com.ph)

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