The young talent of The Sound of Music

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THE Philippine Von Trapp children take a break during rehearsals.

NEAR the beginning of the musical The Sound of Music, the lead character, novice nun Maria is asked to leave the abbey to become the governess of the large Von Trapp family. When Julie Andrews played Maria in the iconic 1965 movie, she was carrying her guitar and a handbag while singing “I Have Confidence in Me.” The West End production that is now running at Solaire’s theater, instead of a handbag, Maria – now played by Carmen Pretorius – carries a backpack. This little difference is funny and noticeable, especially for the fans of the film.

While the backpack versus the handbag is a funny little detail, there are bigger differences between the play – which came opened in 1959 and features music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II and a book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse – and the Julie Andrews film which came out in 1965: the play does not give as much attention to when the Von Trapp family are about to leave for Switzerland, while the film highlights the suspense of when the Nazi soldiers are chasing the escaping family. The play has two songs – “How Can Love Survive” and ”No Way to Stop It” – which were not used in the film, though two of the film’s songs – “Something Good” and “I Have Confidence” – which were not in the original stage version, were added in the 1981 London revival and have been kept in ever since.

It is important to note, especially for the younger generations who associate “Do Re Mi” with their kindergarten days, that The Sound of Music, set in 1938, is fictionalized version of the real travails of the Von Trapp family during World War II.

But enough about the bag – the focus should be on the talent of the Filipino cast members who are part of the ongoing production which is running until Oct. 22 at Solaire.

Ms. Pretorius said the 16 Filipino children, who take turns playing six of the seven Von Trapp kids, are “talented and professional.” She said she was amazed at how everyone in the country seems to love singing and does it well. “I was at the grocery the other day and the lady [bagging the items] was singing,” she said, smiling, during a media call with the rest of the cast members on Sept. 28.

The children playing the Von Trapp kids are mostly amateurs, though two have had previous singing and acting stints: Krystal Brimner (who plays Brigitta) was the lead in Annie, while Gwyneth Dorado (who plays Louisa) was a finalist in Asia’s Got Talent in 2015.

On Sept. 28, the press preview, The Theater at Solaire came alive with The Sound of Music and its iconic songs – “Do Re Mi,” “My Favorite Things,” “The Sound of Music,” “So Long, Farewell” – which the children sang well, and with the gaiety required of them.

While every child was good that evening, easily the audience favorite was eight-year-old Faline Dorado, who played Gretl, the youngest Von Trapp. She was tiny in person but big in potential.

“Filipinos have a beautiful voice, that’s the reputation you guys have – and it’s true,” said Nicholas Maude who plays Captain Von Trapp, of his onstage Filipino children.

The 16 young Filipinos who are playing the six Von Trapp kids – Friedrich, Kurt, Brigitta, Marta, and Gretl; the eldest, Leisl, is played by regular cast member Zoe Beavon – were handpicked by director Jeremy Sams from among 400 hopefuls. His requirements were not only that they should have singing and dancing skills, but he wanted children who could stay focused. The training they received during rehearsals translated on stage – the one sour note being the extreme contrast between the hair color of the children if there was one criticism, it is the contrast in hair color between the six children and their dad and eldest sister, which is especially evident when they have a big group hug. It would take some effort and convincing that they are indeed a family. This is one of the drawbacks of international productions when they do tours abroad because they cannot not bring in young talents on tour and have to find a new set of children at every stop.

Still, it is great to see young Filipino talents on stage and in an international productions.

Tickets, available at TicketWorld, range from P1,500 to P7,000. – Nickky Faustine P. de Guzman