Bethany Dickson as Maria
Bethany Dickson as Maria

DIRECTOR: Frank Thompson
CAST: Andre Schwartz, Bethany Dickson, Janelle Visagie, Taryn Sudding, James Borthwich, Carmen Pretorius, Rhys Williams, Malcom Terrey, Rika Sennett, Genna Galloway, Monique Weich and LJ Neilson
VENUE: Artscape Opera House
UNTIL: March 29
RATING: ****


The Sound of Music is not called “the most-loved musical of all time” for nothing, as evidenced by the sheer number of people singing along under their collective breath at Artscape.

Merge that with the lavish, elegant staging, excellent ensemble work and cute-as-little-buttons von Trapp children, and Pieter Toerien has another winner on his hands.

As this particular musical got under way this past weekend at Artscape, the news broke that the last of the real-life von Trapp children, Maria, died in her sleep. (In the musical her name was changed to Louisa.) A timeous reminder that the show has at its roots a kernel of truth.

Still, the stage show is a magical, sumptuous production that brings to life for two hours the story of how governess Maria (Bethany Dickson) came to teach the von Trapp children, rekindling in them a love of the music that would eventually save their lives.

The best part about the musical is the songs – the memorable lyrics and the infectious melodies have proved to be timeless and the cast handle them with aplomb.

Kudos to director Frank Thompson who has teased out well developed personalities in each of the characters. While Bethany Dickson channels more film Julie Andrews than Bethany Dickson in her portrayal of Maria, she cannot be faulted – she makes a lovely Maria.

James Borthwick is great fun as Max Detwieler, the uncle who pretends not to care, but cares the most of all, while his wife, Rika Sennett, pops up as Frau Schmidt – to the delight of the people sitting behind me.

Carmen Pretorius is sweet as eldest daughter Liesel and as the cover for the Maria character she will hopefully get a chance to show what she can do as a lead.

Janelle Visagie deserves special mention as the Mother Abbess, though – she does a spine-tingling take on Climb Ev’ry Mountain. She delivers the showstopper, owning the moment and the show.

The elegant staging makes full use of all the technical wizardly Artscape is capable of producing – we are talking bits of scenery flying in from the wings, and then quietly flying off again, vast backdrops creating depth and wonderful attention to detail (like servants carrying off Chinese lanterns to decorate the balcony, even if we never actually see the outside).

Despite almost everyone knowing the story there were still cries of delight when the children sing So Long, Farewell and gasps of surprise when the family make a dash for freedom.

And that’s the magic of this show and especially the evocative music which reminds you of what it felt like to experience the production the first time you saw it, whether on screen or stage.