Audience Participation - Mehernosh Bharucha critiques 'The Sound of Music'


Delna Mody made her debut on the English stage as Eliza Doolittle in Hosi Vasunia's sumptuously mounted ‘My Fair Lady, memories of which endure to this day. What a cast (Keith Stevenson, Farid Currim, Aloo Hirjee and the show-stopper Mr Noel Godin) ! It had grand and evocative sets, exquisite costumes and Shiamak's dazzling choreography. & what an Eliza Delna made ! She is now playing another iconic character on stage, Maria, in Ace Productions ‘The Sound of Music’. & What a disappointment this production is!

Firstly, since the action of the musical plays out in the Abbey, Colonel Von Trapp's garden-estate and Maria's bedroom in it, the production ought to have been mounted in an auditorium with wings and a stage-roof, a la the Jamshed Bhabha Auditorium or St Andrew's Auditorium. (From press reports, doesn't look like the musical will move from its home at the Tata.) The revolving set design at the TATA Theatre impedes the smooth flow of one sequence in the play to the next and the stage area constricts the choreography, especially when the stage is peopled by multitudes of children in 2 sequences.

Question for the set designer and play director : what WERE the mountain cutouts on either flank of the stage meant for ? I half expected them to be glided into stage centre for the show's opening number but that didn't happen. Nor did Maria cast a look-see at them as she took the stage in that sequence. And no ! these cutouts were not spot-lit even in the finale, as the Von Trapp family was shown escaping out of Austria. The Austrian mountainscape could otherwise have been screen-projected on the auditorium walls alongside Blocks A & E..

Many scenes were staged blandly, and the choreography was pedestrian. Vigor and pep and magic were wrung right out of sequences like "Problem Called Maria" and "Do Re Mi", the most enchanting song of the musical. The choreography in "16 Going on 17" was embarrassingly childish.

Question for Delna Mody and the play director : Did ANYONE think to get Maria to unpack her guitar from its case at least ONCE during all the times she hauled it onto the stage ?

The supporting cast of Darius Shroff and Lucky Morani were disastrous. Farid Currim would have been an ideal to take the place of the former as Max Detweiler. And while Marianne D'Cruz Aiman was good as the Mother Abbess, the strong-voiced Vivienne Poncha should have been roped in to play this figure of authority.

Dalip Tahil was rather stiff as Col Von Trapp and while I expected Delna to soar as Maria, sadly, for the most part, she didn't. She seemed inhibited in her protrayal of Maria. Give me her Eliza Doolittle and more recently her Katya Kewalramani anyday.

For me, the high points of the musical were : (a) the soul-stirring rendition of "Edelweiss" by Dalip Tahil, (b) the wedding in the abbey, and (c) the tender "Something Good" , between the Colonel and Maria ( tho the liplock was unconvincing).

The story and songs of ‘The Sound of Music’ are loved worldwide, but I didn't feel that much love for this version put up by ACE PRODUCTIONS.