Still climbing mountains after all these years

Gordon Jones
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There is a large, though finite, number of plays in the English-language theatrical repertoire. So what goes around may come around — and sometimes more than once.

In a quarter century of reviewing, I am now on my third engagement with “The Sound of Music” — and next week the same will be true when I tackle “Evita.”

But familiarity does not necessarily breed contempt and is, in any case, mitigated by infectiously cheerful performance by a large and young cast of actors, singers and dancers enjoying themselves.

The current production of “The Sound of Music,” playing on the Arts and Culture Centre main stage, is mounted by Mount Pearl’s O’Donel High School. Premiering in 1959, the show was the last music-and-lyrics collaboration between Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein.

Set in Austria on the verge of the Second World War, the play opens with a chorus of singing nuns, one of whom (a postulant) is released from her vows by the Mother Abbess so that she can test her vocation in the outside world.

There she fills the position of governess to the seven children of an aristocratic widower and martinet, Capt. Von Trapp, formerly of the Austrian navy. The education of the children by their governess appears to be mainly musical, as you might anticipate in this theatrical genre. And it may not surprise you to learn that, in the course of her duties, Maria falls in love and marries the captain.

However, German Nazis occupying Austria want to recruit this experienced mariner into the German navy. Being politically disinclined, Von Trapp, together with his seven children and second wife, flee over the Alps to neutral Switzerland, to the musical encouragement of the chorus of nuns, with the final reprise of “Climb Every Mountain,” led by Erin O’Brian’s shrewd and doughty Mother Abbess.

More leisurely in pacing and development than more recent musicals, the production is nevertheless well-disciplined in song, dance and enactment, featuring solid performance, particularly by portrayers of the Von Trapp family — Michael House as Capt. Von Trapp, Julia Dunne radiant and poised in the role of Maria, and amusing performance by the seven variously sized children, ranging from lanky Friedrich (Quinn Whelan) through Franz (Joel Penney), Louisa (Victoria Hynes), Liesl (Angela Pope), Brigitta (Claire Osmond), Marta (Abigail Pendergast), to diminutive Gretl (Maria Holden).

Many, if not all, of the audience will be acquainted with the music and lyrics of the play: they remain agreeable, if not world-shaking.

Directed by Patty Rose, with musical direction by Sean Carroll and choreography by Kay Noftall, the O’Donel High School production of “The Sound of Music” continues its three-day run at the St. John’s Arts and Culture Centre, with the final performance starting tonight at 7:30 p.m. Running time, including a 20-minute intermission, is 10 minutes under three hours. It closed on opening night at 10:20 p.m. to the enthusiastic, not to say rambunctious, applause of a plethora of parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles in the opening-night audience.

Organizations: O’Donel High School, Michael House

Geographic location: Austria, Mount Pearl, Switzerland

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