It’s 1938 and Nazi Germany, with its so-called Anschluss Pact, is scheming to annex its neighbour, Austria, home to Capt Georg von Trapp and family.
This unsettling state of affairs obtains throughout much of The Sound of Music, now playing at the Capitol Theatre.
Nonetheless there is an ebullience and innocence in the beginning of this story of Maria (a sensational portrayal by Amy Lehpamer), an awkward young postulant sent from her abbey as a governess and teacher to the children of a widowed naval commander. His relationship with the seven children is overwhelmed by his authoritarian demands for discipline.
Maria is armed only with music, kindness and patience, weapons that win the hearts of the children and soften the hard exterior of the captain. But she returns abruptly to the abbey when she realises her own heart has been turned.
Common sense and sage advice – from the Mother Abbess (Jacqueline Dark) – see her follow her heart back to the von Trapp household, just as the brutal spectre of Nazism threatens to shake it apart.
The good news, though, is that her return brings with it the realisation in all quarters that she and the good captain are made for each other.
The briefly affianced Baroness Elsa Schraeder says ‘auf wiedersehen’ and Maria becomes Mrs von Trapp.
While she and the captain are on their honeymoon, family friend ‘Uncle Max’ Detweiler, who has been smitten by the musical prowess of the children (under the tuition of Maria), enters them into the Salzburg Festival against their father’s wishes.
The newlyweds return to the news that Capt von Trapp, who has made no secret of his contempt for all things Nazi, has been ordered to report immediately to the naval station at Bremerhaven, Germany.
The family’s attempt instead to flee the country is stopped by the Nazis. The captain’s defence that they are on their way to take part in the festival is met by the response: “And when you are finished singing, Capt von Trapp, you will be taken to Bremerhaven.”
The inevitability of despair among many that attends the sinister rise of Nazism (and other opportunistic movements) competes with the embracement of power by others.
But, unlike, say, Cabaret, where the despair lingers, in The Sound of Music it is swept away by the joy of the dénouement and the music.
This is excellent theatre, aided especially by the performances of Amy Lehpamer, Jacqueline Dark, who lifts the already inspiring Climb Ev’ry Mountain to new heights, the children and David James, who is the best ‘Uncle Max’ I’ve seen.
More information – soundofmusictour.com.au