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The sensation, all over again


In the Esplanade in Singapore, the Broadway team, directed by Dallet Norris, zestfully attempt to account for the `Do-Re-Mi' musical's enduring worldwide acclaim and thunderous box-office success.

Singapore loves music, and they also love Broadway musicals. At least, looking at the excitement of Singaporeans the other day over the perennial favourite of all time, The Sound Of Music, one would have reasons to believe so. Its tickets are sold out two weeks in advance, long lines wait to get in to the Esplanade, which in itself is an acoustic miracle that exults on the importance of catching every note that gets played there. So what is it about this story of the singing and dancing, Alps-sprinting, eternally perky Von Trapps that has movie audiences continually naming The Sound of Music among their favourite cinematic things no fewer than 45 years after its first release in 1965? The schmaltzy tale of a singing nun, a grumpy captain and his seven curtain-wearing kids have become the most beloved movie musical in the history of films.

In the Esplanade, the Broadway team, directed by Dallet Norris, zestfully attempt to account for the `Do-Re-Mi' musical's enduring worldwide acclaim and thunderous box-office success. The stage sets, visual beauty and the wholesomeness was beyond compare - while we can single out its inspirational and romantic overtones as the key ingredients. The Sound of Music's reliable, Good versus Evil story line and the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein songs can keep audience flocking back again and again. Regardless of the reason, there is an universal appeal in this gloriously and unabashedly charming entertainment that coaxes out the inner-child in all of us. As Maria, actress and mezzo soprano Jennifer Semrick opens with a robust rendition of `The Hills Are Alive' after a particularly delicious day of bolting over the Alps while singing her lungs out - only to have the Reverend Mother, a rich contralto command that she packs her bags. Seems the recently widowed and autocratic Captain Von Trapp (a young and devastatingly handsome Jim Ballard needs a governess for his neglected septets - a brood so sheltered that they don't even know how to sing! Good thing Maria is in tow with a guitar and a host of Rodgers and Hammerstein tunes. Inevitably, the nuns in the abbey do a good job of `She Climbs A Tree but Climb Every Mountain', a song that needs a colatura soprano, gets killed because there is no sound of the descant, and it seems as if the higher registers cannot be sung by this choir that has more mezzo sopranos and pure sopranos. Perhaps one of the finest voices in the circuit is that of the Baronness, who is able to throw back the overtones in a fitting feisty fashion. Throw in a backdrop that includes Catholicism and the Nazis, and you've got a one-of-a-kind musical that walked away with the Best Film Oscar years ago when America desperately craved for a little optimism.

Kids rejoice

Interestingly, it was the kids in the auditorium who laughed, gurgled, and responded to the dialogues. Though the quality of voices were not as good as the Australian cast of Mama Mia staged a few months ago, The Sound of Music has an eternal flavour that all of us love.

The film touches on an universal longing that all parents share in wanting to be closer to their children, as well as a craving all children have for a closer connection with their parents — just as the captain eventually finds with his clan. It explains the success as simply "giving people hope about life." For music lovers, it was a weekend to remember. This June brings Laura Fyugi, the jazz diva, and the year blooms ahead with the promise of great music to savour.

For the Singapore Tourism Board, it is another feather in the cap because it's the country's way of being singularly Singaporean.

UMA NAIR

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