The Sound of Music still enchants after 46 years
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2011-11-20
Our family was glad to have made the effort to watch the production of “The Sound of Music” at the Resorts World Newport Theatre last November 12, with thanks to my good friend and Tokayo (namesake) William Tieng for the tickets. Produced into a movie and released by 20th Century Fox in 1965, The Sound of Music became one of the longest running feature films that had been exhibited in Metro Manila.

During the 1960s, the major film distributors had their exclusive movie houses. The Ideal Theatre was an MGM exclusive, The Odeon was for United Artists, the Universal Theatre was for Universal releases, the State Theatre was for Columbia movies, the Avenue Theatre was for Warner Brothers and Paramount films and the Ever Theatre was for 20th Century Fox releases. All of them were located along Rizal Avenue in Manila.

Woven around the story of the Austrian Von Trapp family, The Sound of Music had attracted a wide range of patrons. That was typical of movies suited for the entire family that became big hits. It proved once more that if you have a truly entertaining production then you don’t need big name stars to make it a success. Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer — who played Maria and Captain Georg Von Trapp, respectively — were unknown to Filipino moviegoers when they watched The Sound of Music.

Of course, the core of the success of The Sound of Music was the musical collaboration of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. I cannot recall any musicale that produced as many hit songs as The Sound of Music. At its peak, songs like The Sound of Music, Climb Every Mountain, My Favorite Things, Sixteen Going on Seventeen, Do Re Mi and Edelweiss would dominate jukeboxes and become the regular fare of radio music stations. 

Although The Sound of Music was a big hit worldwide, in Salzburg, Austria where the Von Trapp family story originated and where the movie was filmed — few of the natives there were aware of the movie and its songs. Salzburg residents were wondering why their lovely city had this Sound of Music Tour that was very popular among visitors. The tour brought you to the most memorable locations you would remember from the movie.

My wife Mey and I took the Sound of Music tour in 1990 and we were amazed at how the other tourists, mostly Baby Boomers from the US and Canada, would take to each movie location as if they were on a Holy Pilgrimage. An American lady seated behind us in the tour bus was almost in tears when it was announced that the famous gazebo no longer existed. Somehow, The Sound of Music enshrined itself in the hearts of many of its movie patrons — associated by many as part of fond memories of their family.

Realizing that the local production would inevitably be compared with the movie that’s been continuously circulated to new generations by YouTube and DVDs, pirated or otherwise — the planners and creative pool of the Resorts World production cleverly injected the scope and scenery that the movie offered by making use of technology and complementing this with grand sets. Scene transitions were cleverly planned to expedite the pacing and keep the audience glued. The overall effect was magical.

The November 12 matinee show that we watched featured Joanna Ampil as Maria, Audie Gemora as Captain Von Trapp and Pinky Marquez as the Mother Abess. They all did justice to the roles that were entrusted to them. Quite impressive too was how they managed to keep the orchestra hidden on the right wing but it could occasionally be viewed on the two LED projection screens at the sides. This also helped entertain folks during set changes.
My old friend Roxanne Lapus directed the production. Roxanne was ably supported by Maestro Rodel Colmenar (musical director), Lyn Fabella (vocal director), Paul Soriano (video producer), Terri Aldeguer (choreographer) Francis Libiran (costume designer), Martin Esteva (lighting director), and Mio Infante (production designer).

Another old friend, Ed Feist, with whom I have performed on stage in 1966, alternated with Audie Gemora and Jon Joven in playing the role of Captain Von Trapp. The talented Cris Villonco alternates with London West End actress Joanna Ampil in playing the role of Maria Von Trapp.

There were deviations from the movie screenplay, which is presumed to be the result of the limitations of a live production. The song My Favorite Things, which was sung by Maria and the Von Trapp children in her bedroom — was moved to an earlier scene at the abbey, featuring Maria and the Mother Abess. In the bedroom with the children, they sung The Lonely Goatherd instead.

In the Robert Wise directed movie, Do Re Mi, which was one of the most popular songs of the Sound of Music, was done in the hills outside Salzburg. In the local production, this was done on the set of the Von Trapp home shortly after Maria met the children. The deviations did not erode the magic of the presentation.

The souvenir program was an innovative brainchild. They created a Salzburg Gazette that featured the biggest world events of 1938, the year when the screenplay of The Sound of Music starts. In the front page and back pages were such big 1938 events as Italy winning the FIFA World Cup, the German annexation of Austria, Adolf Hitler being named as Time Magazine’s Man of the Year and Joe Louis knocking out Max Schmeling in the first round of their heavyweight championship fight.

Overall, the performers, musicians and production staff of the Resorts World production of The Sound of Music should take three bows for their highly professional work. However, they should apologize for holding a boy’s birthday cake candle blowing ritual right on stage after curtain call. That was very unprofessional and can be considered as theatre sacrilege.

Except for that act of theatre sacrilege, The Sound of Music, 46 years after the movie release, still continues to warm hearts, rekindle fond memories and weave its magic. Treat yourself and your loved ones — go see and enjoy it. It will run until December 11, 2011.

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