It’s amazing, in the midst of the Carnival season, with fete after fete after fete, the Naparima Bowl was packed to capacity for the staging of the well loved musical, The Sound of Music.
Seven shows later, including an impromptu Saturday morning performance, over a four day period, patrons were still expressing regret at not getting an opportunity to see the Naparima Girls’ High School production. Primary and secondary schools from around San Fernando were also part of the cast.
Director Victor Edwards had reservations when he was initially approached by the Principal Carolyn Bally-Gosine to do this play, as he was not sure it still had the power to attract such large audiences, especially in the midst of the Carnival season. Man was he wrong.
From the introduction of the cast doing a ribbon dance to a medley of the memorable original soundtrack in the opening scene, to the end when the von Trapp family disappeared into the seating area of the theatre, the audience remained mesmerised.
When the final curtains fell, they remain seated for the principal’s acknowledgement and joined with the cast in the singing every word of Edleweiss, in and out of tune.
Considering it is a production that was originally staged in 1959 and has been seen all over the world in different configurations, it took some brainstorming and innovation by Edwards, musical director Bernadette Roberts, choreographer Beverly Hinds-George, costume designer Lyanna Nichelle Brown, as well as set designers Creative Spectacle, to pull off this outstanding production.
What was most striking was the prominent use of the steelband in the live orchestra, ringing out sweetly and in harmony with the other traditional instruments, for the Do-Re-Mi, My Favourite Things, The Sound of Music, Sixteen Going on Seventeen, and all the other sing-a-long tracks, just adding that local touch.
The use of the red, white and black in the costuming, designed in a flower and also a book marker given to guests, was not lost, but relatable in the play set in 1938 Austria which delved into the love between a novitiate Maria and Captain von Trapp during a period of resistance.
Director Edwards explained that while he is aware the appeal of the musicals lies in the familiarity of the music and songs, the opulence of the setting, the enchanting dances, the impressive costumes and in this case the pride of parents identifying with their child on stage, his theatrical background never allows him forget that theatre must have a social function.
“That an audience’s interaction with its presentation should create levels of catharsis within the body politic that in some way changes social behaviour.”
For this reason he said, “We sought to transmit the power of the Edelweiss flower, the national symbol of Austria, into a memento as a reminder of the possibilities we all possess as citizens of Trinidad and Tobago… to not be less than who we are… to not ask someone to be less than who they are… to stand up for the collective good of the Republic.”
He noted that apart from the loveliness of the musical, the underlying political reality that the period represents and the want he characters handle and resolve its impact, is as important since we too seem to be living a country controlled by a privileged few who would impose their will on us.
While Edwards tried to adapt the production locals could identify it, for the most part the traditional script was maintained with a Julie Andrews look and sound alike in Marina Mohan who creditably executed the role of Maria. Marina was one of two Maria’s who alternated between shows. The other was Sydney Mohan.
The wedding scene, not in the original script, between Captain Georg von Trapp, portrayed by gifted singer, actor and musician Rondell Mungal, stirred all kinds of emotion as the bridal party journeyed through the aisles of the theatre on the way to their honeymoon.
The charming multitalented children von Trapp, who demonstrated skills in not only acting, but singing and dancing, also won the hearts of the audience.
At the end of the show, there was only positive feedback. Behind the scenes, tears rolled down the eyes of cast members as they expressed gratitude for the confidence placed in them to play the parts they did.
One cast member also allowed her tears to flow, having postponed her grief of her father’s death just before the show.