The Hills Youth Theatre’s productions are always enjoyable. They embody authentic community youth theatre in action. Further, this opening production for the year is evidence of the groups’ continued theatrical and musical development. I thoroughly enjoyed it, as did the full house at the morning performance I attended. The logistics of marshalling such a huge cast are extraordinary. In the finale there were over a hundred on stage, yet they were all well deployed and focussed, as they were throughout the performance. That’s great credit to Directors Di Mason and Ben Proeve, and their large production team.
Jaimi Wilson was warm and engaging as the central character, Maria. She sang well and related very well to the other performers. She led the children with sensitivity and understanding. Opposite her was the commanding figure of Cooper Sampson as Captain von Trapp. Early on he had both his own children – and some youngsters in the audience – thoroughly intimidated. Indeed, there was an involuntary “Uh,oh” from a small person seated near the front when the Captain glared at his offspring for saying the wrong thing. It was probably not the planned audience reaction, but showed how convincing the performance was, and Cooper pressed on with his admonishment, as a skilled performer should.
The seven von Trapp children were delightful. They worked well with each other and brought to their roles the intended humanity and joy, as a contrast to their father’s early autocratic ways. Eden Lane was very strong in the role of Liesl. She had real spark, and sang clearly and melodically. Importantly, too, she related well to Luka Bolte as Rolf, particularly in singing I am Sixteen. Tayla Arbon was firm yet understanding as the Mother Abbess, and was well supported in song and dialogue by Harri Wolff, Zoe Morgan and Jaia Eckert as her fellow nuns. Harri Wolff (Sister Berthe) was particularly convincing. She brought restraint, grace and a suitable stillness to the role.
Charlie Thorne was exuberant and demonstrative as Max Detweiler whose wheeling and dealing with both sides in the take-over of Austria was a good example of the dilemmas of that time. Charlie was bright and entertaining throughout.
It’s important to note how well the recorded accompaniment was coordinated with the singing in both solos and large ensemble pieces. That evidenced the attention to detail of Musical Director Di Mason and Assistant MD Lazuli Chittleborough, along with Sound Coordinator Jon Eckert and his team. All sound cues were timely and the balance between voices and the backing tracks was sensitively maintained.
In all, this production was authentic and believable, and provided good quality entertainment to the audience, whatever our age.