Review by Dave Smith
Murray Bridge Players and Singers tackled this Rodgers and Hammerstein favourite with first-time directors Mari Reu and Robyn Schubert at the helm. Their direction produced a disciplined, if literal, on-stage performance which was well supported by Chris Hodgen’s orchestra.
Both cast and orchestra battled to keep the play flowing because of lengthy scene changes. While the set looked fine, several pieces were large and cumbersome. One change – requiring the big crew to dismantle, turn and reconstruct a wall – took several minutes. The orchestra gamely played on but the disruption to the action was pronounced. The play’s design needed major simplification.
Karen Kneebone was a delightful Maria. She evinced the character’s naive, gentle persona, and her sweet singing won the audience’s hearts. Noel Kneebone, as Captain von Trapp, was restrained and whisper-quiet which made it difficult to portray the great change that Maria brings to him and the family.
The on-stage action had a feeling of control and restraint which suited some characters and scenes but for others had the effect of restricting the life and joy for which this musical is known.
Nevertheless, some characters shone. The von Trapp children – Katelin Kneebone, Kurt Miegel, Niamh Jolly, Angus Hoff, Caitlin O’Brien, Madison Kruschel and Eliza Davis – were spontaneous and uniformly appealing. Their singing, movement and sense of ensemble were excellent.
Chris Overton as Max also stood out for his flamboyance and strong singing. Di Walton (Mother Abbess) and Narelle Meyers (Elsa) had some good moments, while Michael Gates made the most of his role as Franz, the butler.
The company’s strong sense of community was apparent in this latest production. All power to them.