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Fill your heart with the Sound of Music

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Catch the musical that is beloved by generations in Colombo this week

By Uditha Jayasinghe

For many Sri Lankans, the strains of Do-Re-Mi are as familiar as nursery rhymes. Many came across it even before they knew the tune belongs to the iconic musical ‘Sound of Music’ and would be enticed at the prospect of watching it live in Colombo at the Nelum Pokuna Theatre this week.

Many people in Colombo are avid theatre-goers and would likely be enthusiastic about adding a renowned musical of international standard to their viewing experience. For them, having grown up with the touching scene of seven lonely children hearing the notes of Do-Re-Mi for the first time and being introduced to music by the kind Maria, is a chance to go back in time and sing along to some of the best loved tunes of all time. 

The musical is presented by Cinnamon Life and performed in Colombo by the Broadway Asia Group with 26 cast members including locals, nine musicians, twenty touring crew members and about 60 stage hands. On Wednesday, it was all hands on deck with the entire troupe readying for their first performance that evening. Rehearsals and technical fine tuning was in full swing when the media entered for a small preview of the show at Nelum Pokuna. 

Impressive preview 

The expressive hands of conductor Kevin Kraak was just visible from the orchestra pit as a medley of ‘The Hills are Alive,’ ‘Sixteen going on Seventeen,’ ‘My Favourite Things,’ ‘Climb Every Mountain’ and ‘So Long, Farewell’ resounded before the curtains parted to a scene set in the Von Trapps’ imposing home.  

The iconic staircase that everyone will remember from the first meeting with the children and later in dance numbers is the backdrop to the performance of Do-Re-Mi with Maria. The next song was “Climb Every Mountain” by the Mother Abbess, which was performed by Janelle Visagie, proved that she has a stunning voice. This top calibre performance is why the Sound of Music is worth watching and will be an indelible memory. Six out of the seven children, with the exception of the eldest are played by talented Sri Lankan actors. After an enthusiastic performance, they lined up to give their views. 

For them, it is the chance of a lifetime and the first time any of them had been part of an international production. Working alongside the experienced international artists had given them fresh confidence and a literal bounce in their step, which they showed as they danced and sang along with Maria.           

“I play the role of Luisa in this production. I have been on the stage since I was six years old but I have never ever done anything as exciting as or as big as this. Because this is a major international production and we are very honoured to have this production in Sri Lanka. It’s so nice to have met so many new people onstage and what makes this experience sweeter for me is that my little brother is in the other team,” said Amaya Perera who is part of the Purple Team. As is the norm in Broadway and other theatre productions the seven shows to be performed till 18 February will see some actors changing, including the children.

Local performers 

“We had a huge response for auditions and my team was able to filter that down to twelve performers. Talking to the team that has worked with these children over the last two weeks, they certainly found the children coming out of their shells and speaking more, sharing more. They were very respectful, very polite but quiet. However, I think we have seen today that they have benefited from this process and I think that is joyful and these children are going to enchant the audience,” said Producer Max Finbow. 

“This is emblematic of the power of the arts. Be it performing, be it art, be it theatre or poetry; the involvement of these children has given them greater confidence and a chance to express their talent. Hopefully, the show will portray the unique involvement of these children with international performers and encourage similar shows to be brought to Sri Lanka and do shows of your own here on a big scale.” 

Veteran performance artist Soundarie David Rodrigo was also full of praise with regards to the opportunities given to children by the production. “In Sri Lanka there is a lot of talent but unfortunately there is not much support. Of course we do have local groups that will develop opportunities but sadly even in terms of mentality of parents I feel there is a lot of focus on academics and not necessarily the arts. It is those that actually have a rounded approach including arts that are able to manage their time accordingly and excel in their studies,” she said.

“One may not necessarily have a knack for acting but there are other aspects of production that they can get involved in and I think it is important that students see that it’s not just books but there is a lot more to life than academics. That does not mean you have to ignore your studies but it is acceptable to venture into the arts. There is a whole world out there and I can see that our local actors have also improved through this process. They are more confident and they seem to have become veterans.” The preview of the show was also attended by school children from several nearby institutions. Colombo is a cosmopolitan city with a deep and varied theatre history and the Sound of Music will be another one of its ‘favourite things.’

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