BWW Review: THE SOUND OF MUSIC at Folketeateret - Beautifully Presented Show
Scenekvelder have created a masterful production of "The Sound of Music" first and foremost thanks to a skillful direction by Lars Jacobsen. He has taken a source material which despite the noticeable weakness of its quaintly old-fashioned book, comes across stronger and more modern than I have seen in past productions.
"The Sound of Music" is a musical that many have a fondness for, much owed to the movie adaptation starring Julie Andrews. Most of the songs have become standards in popular culture, and the plot is well known. Loosely based on the real life figure of Maria Augusta Kutschera (Rainer in the musical) who takes a job as governess to a large family while she decides whether to become a nun. She falls in love with the children, and eventually their widowed father, Captain George von Trapp. He is ordered to accept a commission in the German navy, but he opposes the Nazis. He and Maria decide on a plan to flee Austria with the children
I will admit that I have never been a big fan of this musical and feel it is one of Rodgers and Hammerstein's more languid scores. This is in part to the way it was written. It was not originally conceived as musical but as play, for Broadway star Mary Martin, with songs from the repertoire of the Von Trapp Family Singers spread in between. It was decided that it would need a few original songs, and Rodgers and Hammerstein were hired to supply these. It was gradually decided that it should be a musical with all original songs written by them. The dramaturgy of the book have always suffered as a result of this.
I am very pleased that the creative team of this production have taken steps to rectify this, especially directorially. Small moments such as showing Captain Georg Von Trapp alone in his room mourning the passing of his wife is a huge improvement of his character. The political context was laid on thick with extra references to the rise of the Nazis in Germany. In most productions I have seen the threat of the Anschluss is usually dissipated reducing the resolution of this storyline very much to a subplot, but not this time. Here it is front and center, and is a very welcomed addition.
Lena Kristin Ellingsen sings beautifully. She is charming, cheeky and deliver a solid, heartfelt portrayal as Maria. Håvard Bakke brings a firm, yet vulnerable and honest characterization of Captain Von Trapp. He and Ellingsen depicts good chemistry together during their scenes, and it feels believable that they would fall in love, even though it is written a little too sudden. Solveig Kringlebotn as Mother Superior truly shines in the role, exhibiting wisdom and calmness. Her rendition of "Climb Every Mountain" is stunning.
The supporting cast is very strong. Ulrikke Bandstorp does an impressive musical debut as Liesl. Especially the scene with Maria in act two was very moving. Her more pop-sounding voice is a pleasant counterpoint to Lars Henrik Aarnes's velvety tenor voice, as Rolf, in the duet "Sixteen Going on Seventeen". Even though the song is sugar sweet, it shadows a foreboding doom of their relationship due to Rolf's new found ideology. Aarnes gives a very strong and unsettling portrayal as Rolf. Elsa Schräder, the peeving, aspiring future wife of Von Trapp is just irritating enough, and Siren Jørgensen is thriving in the role. Ingar Helge Gimle as "Uncle" Max Detweiler does his best with what is one the page, but it comes over as a little too caricatured at times. He fares better during the second act. Niels Vogt and Marianne Krogness as Franz and Frau Schmidt proves that it isn't the amount of lines that is essential in making lasting impressions. Especially Krogness was hilarious.
The creative team have assembled a truly great ensemble. They sound amazingly strong, especially during the choral scenes in the nunnery. The singing from the nuns is particularly uplifting as well as moving. And the children are well-schooled, and don't fail to delight.
The set, designed byPetr Hlousek is truly impressive. The Von Trap estate, which is the main set, is built on a revolving stage and displays the many rooms and exterior of the house. It is employed in scenes where the focus can shift from the main action to what goes on in the background. Lars Jacobsen utilizes this in his direction throughout to great effect. I especially liked the addition of servants being more part of the action. Visually I was missing a few (favorite) things. Those Austrian hills, for a start. Even though they were swapped for a more forestry look, I still would have liked to have seen them in the background during the scenes at the Von Trap house.
Overall, the music in this production is of the highest quality, and the orchestrations complement the vocals. The score is rearranged by Atle Halstensen, who has slightly modernized it. The 10 piece orchestra, led by Petter Kragstad, sounds rich and full, for the most part.
"The Sound of Music" is a very good family show, and is a fitting introduction for children to musical theatre. For its flaws the musical has stood the test of time, and Scenekvelder have presented a beautiful production.
Photos by Fredrik Arff